Kasey Chambers & Shane Nicholson
John Metzger's #21 album for 2008
First Appeared in The Music Box, October 2008, Volume 15, #10
Written by John Metzger
Fri October 24, 2008, 06:30 AM CDT
For those fans of Kasey Chambers who were thrown for a loop by the eclecticism that she brought to bear on her 2006 endeavor Carnival, there is hope: Although it comes wrapped in the polished sophistication of classic pop and rock conventions from the 1970s, her latest set Rattlin’ Bones is a full-fledged return to the Americana-imbued fare of her first two endeavors. Surrounded by family — her husband Shane Nicholson serves as her collaborative partner, while father Bill and brother Nash provide instrumental and behind-the-scenes support, respectively — Chambers transforms the simplistic straightforwardness of the affair into an endearing collection of songs about love and loss.
Already an established artist outside of her base in Australia, Chambers, of course, had as much to lose as Nicholson had to gain from their equal billing on Rattlin’ Bones. Consequently, it would be perfectly understandable if her followers were not only to view the set with skepticism but also to approach it with caution. It’s safe to say, however, that Chambers and Nicholson’s relationship at home has translated remarkably well into their creative environment. In fact, neither of them has ever sounded this comfortable in the recording studio, and as a result, Rattlin’ Bones is the best album of their careers.
Essentially, Chambers and Nicholson use their relationship as a means of informing their material. Over the course of Rattlin’ Bones, they deliver their songs with an air of unassuming elegance and ease, allowing the subtleties of the musical textures — which run the gamut from Alison Krauss and Union Station to The Byrds, from Linda Ronstadt to The Eagles, and from Fleetwood Mac to John Denver — to enhance the emotional aura of their work. Their harmonies are refined and lovely, but it is the way in which they trade lyrics, as if in conversation, that ultimately elevates the collection above other like-minded affairs.
Against a gentle backdrop of banjo and mandolin, Chambers and Nicholson sound utterly contented on Once in a While, and they bring warmth to the sad refrains of the pedal steel-kissed, country-imbued flavors of Sweetest Waste of Time. They counter the darkness of One More Year — a tale of how love can soften hearts but hate can make them harder — by exploring the human need for companionship on The House that Never Was. Ultimately, they find strength in family and friends during No One Hurts Up Here.
In a sense, the entirety of Rattlin’ Bones encircles and celebrates Chambers and Nicholson’s relationship. At the same time, though, they deftly keep the endeavor from ever becoming mawkish. Naturally, the joy that they share enlivens their affectionate affirmations; yet, it also provides comfort to their brokenhearted ruminations. With Rattlin’ Bones, Chambers and Nicholson never manage to break new ground, though this isn’t at all what they are trying to accomplish with the set. In the end, they succeed where many others have failed, largely because they sound as if they are having a blast getting inside the heads of their characters and bringing their lives into focus. ˝
Of Further Interest...
Rattlin' Bones is available
from Barnes & Noble. To order, Click Here!
1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2008 The Music Box