Born on June 4, 1976, in Mount Gambier, New South Wales, Australia; daughter of Bill and Diane Chambers, both musicians. Addresses: Record company--Warner Bros. Records, 3300 Warner Blvd., Burbank, CA 91505-4694. Website--Kasey Chambers Official Website: http://www.kaseychambers.com.
With the release of her first solo album The Captain in 1999, Kasey Chambers was hailed by critics as among the most talented singers and songwriters in the alternative-country genre, also known as alt-country. Avoiding the studio polish and multilayered overdubs common to much of the country music produced for major record labels in Nashville, Tennessee, alt-country musicians value emotional honesty and minimal studio production above mass-market, commercial appeal. They are influenced by Gram Parsons, Emmylou Harris, and Townes Van Zandt as much as classic country performers as Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, and Buck Owens. In addition, they also acknowledge rock 'n' roll influences from punk and 1970s album-oriented rock to heavy metal, 1960s psychedelia, and 1980s alternative rock.
Born on June 4, 1976, in Mount Gambier, New South Wales, Australia, Chambers was three months old when her parents, Bill and Diane Chambers, and her three-year-old brother Nash moved to central Australia's Nullarbor Plain, a largely unpopulated and treeless desert area. Her parents earned a living by hunting and trapping the rabbit and fox that raided Nullarbor poultry farms, then selling the pelts. The Chambers home schooled their children, teaching them American folk and country music by the Carter Family, Jimmie Rogers, Hank Williams, Townes Van Zandt, and Gram Parsons, as well as Australian country artists Slim Dusty, Buddy Williams, and Tex Morton. In 1986 the family moved to Southend, located on the southern coast of Australia, and began playing as a band at local public houses. By the time she was 14, Chambers began to pursue a musical career with her family's Dead Ringer Band. The quartet, billed under the father's name, released two cassettes, Sea Eagle in 1987 and Kindred Spirit in 1991. By the time they began recording as the Dead Ringer Band, the teenaged Kasey was the group's lead singer.
The Dead Ringer Band released a four-song extended-play single, A Matter of Time in 1992, and released their debut album, Red Desert Sky, one year later. The latter release featured the 17-year-old Kasey's first recorded songwriting effort. At the time, the band consisted of Bill Chambers on lead guitars, Diane on bass guitar, Nash on rhythm guitar and harmony vocals, and Kasey on rhythm guitar and vocals. In their second full-length release, 1995's Home Fires, Diane abdicated bass guitar responsibilities to professional musicians; the band enjoyed a successful single, "Australian Son," which spent seven weeks on the country charts.
Their follow-up album, Living in the Circle, released in 1997, contained eight original songs and covers of songs by the Carter Family, Townes Van Zandt, and Maria McKee. No Depression writer Geoffrey Himes noted that Living in the Circle "makes it clear that Kasey was the Dead Ringer Band's most valuable asset. At 21, her voice had blossomed into the dramatic instrument it is today. And her songwriting--especially on 'Things Don't Come Easy,' 'The Last Generation,' and 'Already Gone'--had found the simple, emotionally naked approach that proved the perfect vehicle for her voice." Contractually obligated to provide another album to their label, Massive Records, the Dead Ringer Band released an album called Hopeville in 1998 comprised entirely of songs by other writers, including John Prine, Nanci Griffith, Steve Earle, Rodney Crowell, and Lucinda Williams. Following the album's release, Bill and Diane Chambers separated and divorced, and the Dead Ringer Band went on hiatus.
After the Chambers's divorce, the Dead Ringer Band signed a contract with EMI Australia that included a solo contract for Kasey. Bill and Nash became musicians in her band, while Diane focused on her daughter's merchandising. Her first album, The Captain, released in 1999, was lauded by critics for its elegant simplicity and earned favorable comparisons to the music of alt-country singer and songwriter Lucinda Williams. The album was recorded in Australia, but additional recording was done later in Nashville, Tennessee, including vocal and instrumental support from American musicians Julie and Buddy Miller. The multiple awards won by the release, including the Australian Country Music Association's Album of the Year and the Australian Recording Industry Association's (ARIA) Best Female Vocalist, helped propel it onto both Australia's country and popular music charts.
When The Captain was released in the United States, Chambers and her family toured the country to promote it. She won several influential proponents within the music industry, including Steve Earle and Lucinda Williams, and broadened her audience with a well-received performance on The Late Show with David Letterman. Chambers performed with Lucinda Williams, Robert Earl Keen, and British folk-rocker Richard Thompson, and made appearances at the South by Southwest Music Conference in Austin, Texas, and country music's annual Fan Fair in Nashville, Tennessee. These netted her additional critical accolades and pushed her American sales over 100,000 copies. Writing in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Jack Bernhardt noted: "Introspective in a quiet, thoughtful way, The Captain taps into the emotions that make country music vital. It surveys hardships and the lure of the road in tones that are lonesome and blue. And Chambers sings them with an Iris Dement-meets-Tammy Wynette combination of vulnerability and truth."
The album's title song, however, raised concerns among feminists due to lyrics that suggest the narrator's desire to subjugate herself to her male partner. Of the song, Chambers told Billboard: "Lots of women come up to me saying, 'That's so sexist.' I wrote it ... for someone who's really special to me. It's kind of through the eyes of myself in about 10 years' time, when I want to settle down and take it easy and just be no one for a day."
In 2001, Chambers finished recording her second solo effort, Barricades and Brickwalls, which features supporting vocals by Lucinda Williams and Buddy Miller. Considered to be more musically diverse than her previous album, Barricades and Brickwalls features songs that range from traditional country to straight-ahead rock 'n' roll. She told Himes: "These new songs have been written over the past three years, and I did go through a heartbreak during that time. I was feeling very lost. I found that selling double platinum and winning an ARIA doesn't fill your heart and soul. I didn't find out what would satisfy me, but I did find out that material things wouldn't. I said, 'OK, this isn't what I'm going for. I love my career, and I do appreciate it, but it's not enough."
by Bruce Walker
Kasey Chambers's Career
Began performing with parents and older brother Nash as Dead Ringer Band, 1986-98; released Dead Ringer Band album Home Fires, 1996; recorded Dead Ringer Band album Living in the Circle, 1997; released first solo album, The Captain, 1999; title track "The Captain" featured on Home Box Office (HBO) series The Sopranos, 2001; released second solo album, Barricades and Brickwalls, 2001.
Kasey Chambers's Awards
Australian Recording Industry Association (RIAA), Best Country Album for The Captain, 1999; Country Music Association of Australia Award, Best Female Vocalist, 2000; Country Music Association of Australia Award, Best Album for The Captain, 2000.
- Selected discography
- The Captain , Virgin, 1999; issued in U.S. on Warner/Asylum, 2000.
- Barricades and Brickwalls , EMI Australia, 2001; issued in U.S. on Warner Bros., 2002.
- With the Dead Ringer Band
- Red Desert Sky , Massive, 1993.
- Home Fires , Massive, 1995.
- Living in the Circle , Massive, 1997; reissued, 2000.
- Hopeville , Massive Records, 1998; reissued, 2000.
- Till Now: The Very Best of the Dead Ringer Band , Massive, 2000.
- Wolfe, Kurt, Country Music: The Rough Guide, Rough Guides, Ltd., 2000.
- Billboard, September 30, 2000, pp. 18, 22.
- Country Music, December-January 2001, p. 28-38.
- Guardian (England), July 4, 2000, p. 2.14.
- Guitar Player, March 2001, p. 27.
- Minneapolis Star Tribune, March 27, 2001, p. 3E.
- New York Times, March 11, 2001, p. 2.30.
- No Depression, January-February 2002.
- Rolling Stone, October 16, 2001, p. 73.
- Seattle Times, March 23, 2001, p. G12.
- Sydney Morning Herald (Australia), August 30, 2001.
- Village Voice, April 10, 2001, pp. 73-74.
- Wisconsin State Journal, June 21, 2001, p. E2; June 14, 2001, p. 20.
- "Kasey Chambers," All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll (December 14, 2001).
- "Kasey Chambers Biography," EMI Music, http://www.emimusic.com/au/artists/kaseychambers/03_bio.asp (December 20, 2001).
- Kasey Chambers Official Website, http://www.kaseychambers.com (December 20, 2001).