Posts Tagged ‘Kasey Chambers’

We finished the second and final season of Joan of Arcadia yesterday. For those of you counting at home, that means we whipped through the 23 Season 1 episodes and 22 Season 2 episodes in exactly 22 days. One of the things I like about the series is that it avoids the typical pitfalls associated with dramas that explore faith and humanity. Within the show, as in real life, faith leads to questions, doubts and realizations, but never easy answers.

One of my favorite moments comes near the end of its run, in the “Common Thread” installment. God commands Joan to return to knitting, a hobby she stopped when she was a kid. As always, there’s far more to the episode than just that; we don’t just see Joan casting on, stitching and purling for the next 40+ minutes. I’ll skip the rest of the story, however, to the moment in question, when Joan gently rebuffs her folks, who are trying to ease her guilt regarding a bad decision made by her former boyfriend, Adam. “I mean, we’re all connected like the scarf. One piece of yarn, if you cut it up into little pieces, it’s useless. You can’t make anything out of it. I am responsible, partly. We all are…for everything that we touch and everything that touches us.”

It’s never us vs. them, as much as we sometimes wish it so. It’s us vs us. 

And, with that, here’s today’s Top 5: Of Questions & Faith (aka Joan of Arcadia, Part II)…

1) Kasey Chambers – “Abraham”

2) Van Morrison – “When Will I Ever Learn to Walk in God”

3) Shelby Lynne & Allison Moorer – “Into My Arms”

4) Bruce Springsteen – “Rocky Ground”

5) Paul Weller – “Can You Heal Us (Holy Man)”

And two bonuses…

6) Natalie Merchant – “I May Know the Word”

7) Maria McKee and Bryan MacLean – “Sweet Dr. Jesus”

Australian country singer-songwriter Kasey Chambers returns to her roots on this, her 12th studio outing. In the press release announcing it, she explained that “I grew up in the remote outback of Australia living a unique lifestyle isolated from civilization. The campfire was the heart of our existence: for survival, creativity, inspiration. We hunted all our own food and then cooked it on the campfire. My brother and I did all our schooling via correspondence around the campfire. We used the campfire for warmth and light. We gathered around the campfire at night to play songs together as a family. Our connection to music and the land has developed through and around the campfire since I was born, so it has always stayed with me as a special part of my life.”

Accompanying her: Brandon Dodd of Grizzlee Train, who’s been part of Kasey’s touring ensemble for a few years now; Alan Pigram of the Pigram Brothers, a longtime family friend and Aussie indigenous elder; and the man who led her family into the outback all those years ago, her dad, Bill Chambers. Guitars often chug along, a harmonica wails, and voices come together as one or, as often, with a call-and-response that’s as joyous to hear as it must have been to sing. About the only thing missing: a campfire crackling in the background.

But make no mistake: This isn’t a collection of stereotypical campfire songs, many of which are kid-friendly sing-alongs that date to the 18th and 19th centuries. (Think “Home on the Range,” “Bingo Was His Name-O” and “The Hokey Pokey,” which I recall singing on a fifth-grade camp weekend.) No, by and large, these songs address such topics as life, love, longing, death, and (as evidenced by the above clip) David vs. Goliath. One speaks directly to Abraham, the patriarch of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. (“Oh we failed you Abraham, we’ve come unstuck/so many times you’ve bailed me out/oh we failed to understand and fucked it up/we laughed out loud/nobody’s laughing now…”)

Another highlight: “The Harvest & the Seed,” which features a guest appearance by Emmylou Harris.

Yet another spellbinding song is “Now That You’ve Gone.” Last year, after seeing Kasey in concert, I wrote that her vocals bypass the ears for the heart and soul – this is a good example of what I meant then. Built from the same cloth as “Ain’t No Little Girl,” it’s a vocal tour de force (and a guaranteed showstopper in concert, I think).

By album’s end, the darkness recedes with a few songs one can actually imagine singing with kids around a campfire – “This Little Chicken,” the metaphoric “Fox & the Bird,” and “Happy.” They’re sly and fun, and further burnish what is a stellar set of songs.

My original plan for this week’s Top 5 was to countdown cool songs from 1996, when the Netflix series Everything Sucks! is set. If you haven’t seen the show, it’s a comedy-drama about a handful of high-school kids, and two of their parents, in Boring, Ore., that’s cut from the same cloth as Freaks & Geeks. (I won’t say more for spoiler reasons.) It’s good, if flawed, hitting the funny bone as often as it tugs at the heartstrings.

But that would’ve required a time commitment that, this Sunday, I couldn’t make. So, instead, here’s one song from ’96 – an overlooked wonder that kicked off the American Routes radio show today on XPN – and four relatively new releases.

1) Dale Watson – “A Real Country Song.” This song, which laments the disappearance of authentic country music from the airwaves, was released in 1996. Sad to say, 22 years on, real country music remains on life support.

2) Kasey Chambers & the Fireside Disciples – “The Campfire Song.” The Aussie country singer-songwriter (one of my favorites) announced this week that her next album, Campfire, will be released in mid-April.

3) The Last of the Easy Riders – “Unto the Earth.” I discovered this Colorado-based band, whose music conjures the Byrds and Flying Burrito Brothers, via a review in the most recent Uncut, and listened to their full-length debut, Unto the Earth, this morning. It’s quite good. (Side note: The opening guitar solo in this, the title tune, recalls Blondie’s “Call Me.”)

4) Caitlyn Smith – “Scenes From a Corner Booth at Closing Time on Tuesday.” The singer-songwriter has co-written songs recorded by Rascal Flatts, Garth Brooks, Lady Antebellum and Meghan Trainor, among others, but only released her debut, Starfire, earlier this year.

5) Violetta Zironi – “Oasis.” I don’t know much about this folksinger beyond this: She’s Italian; has a gorgeous voice; and released her debut EP, which doesn’t include this gem, last month.

I worked from home last Thursday, as I sometimes do. If there’s a chance of snow, or it has snowed, or (as in this case) if Diane and I have a show to go to that night, or if the weatherman is predicting heavy rain, the odds are good that my morning commute will consist of me fighting the traffic from the Keurig machine in our kitchen to here, our second-floor study. Most days, my work consists of banging away on a computer keyboard; the need to be in office is often nil (though it’s always better to be seen than not). This day, however, I also had a meeting so – at the appropriate time – I clicked a Skype link to join in.

The reason I mention it: Those who Skype into my company’s meetings are greeted with our head shots from our company ID cards; they’re visible to everyone in attendance, both in the conference room and online. In my case, it’s a photo that was taken in the mid-2000s; as now, I have long blondish-brown hair and a mustache and beard. Unlike these days, however, there’s nary a white or gray whisker on my upper lip, cheeks and chin.

That’s a long-winded way to say that I was reminded, yet again, that my internal clock is tick-tick-ticking closer to midnight.

There’s a well-documented disconnect between how people perceive time and the reality that is the static measurement based on the Earth’s revolutions around the sun. A month lasts forever when we’re young, for instance, but seemingly blurs by at ever-increasing speeds the older we become. And when looking back, the flawed internal workings of recall come into play. Often, the time between now and then doesn’t seem quite as long as it is. It was just yesterday, right? Other times, even with more recent memories, it might seem like a lifetime ago.

As regular readers know, I sometimes dig through my old desk diaries, excavate old rock magazines, and drill into my brain’s medial temporal lobe (where most memories are stored) for my musings. I’m accustomed to dealing with the figurative distance between the present and past, and in peeling away the nostalgic layers of memory to present life as it was – well, as much as I can in a few hundred words.

But seeing a picture of myself pretty much as I still look, just minus wide swaths of white and gray in my beard? That’s a proverbial slap in the face from the original time lord, Chronos.

And, on that cheerful note, here’s today’s Top 5: My Back Pages.

1) Bob Dylan – “My Back Pages.” From Bob-fest, with Roger McGuinn, Tom Petty, Neil Young, Eric Clapton and George Harrison, but originally found on Dylan’s 1964 album Another Side of Bob Dylan.

2) Dusty Springfield – “Goin’ Back.” In 1966 and ‘67, Dusty starred in two seasons of the Dusty TV series on the BBC. In ’68, she moved to ITV for It Must Be Dusty, then returned to the BBC for Decidedly Dusty in 1969. Each episode of each series followed the same pattern: Dusty sang, welcomed a guest, and then sang some more. Some episodes of Dusty are available on DVD, but – sadly – the tapes for many episodes were either erased or misplaced. The audio has survived fo some, however, including of this beautiful rendition of “Goin’ Back” from 1966.

3) Kasey Chambers – “We’re All Gonna Die Someday.” From Kasey’s classic 1999 debut, The Captain. Sometimes you just gotta laugh about our end times.

4) The Chromatics – “Into the Black.” I first heard this cover of Neil Young’s “Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black)” via an episode of what was one of my favorite TV shows, Covert Affairs, in 2012. It’s a haunting rendition.

5) Neil Young & Crazy Horse – “Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black).” And here’s Neil riding the Horse on the same song, from the Rust Never Sleeps album.

And a few bonuses…

6) Bob Seger – “I Knew You When.” The title track from Seger’s most recent album. “We all sit here with our memories/of a glorious long ago…”

7) Steely Dan – “Hey Nineteen.” “Hey nineteen/No, we got nothing in common/No, we can’t talk at all…”

And finally…

8) Courtney Marie Andrews – “Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You.” Nah, not a song about death, growing old, or looking back. Just a great Dylan song by a young(er) artist who knows her music history…