- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 10, 2004

When Kasey Chambers sings in her signature little-girl twangy voice, it is hard to imagine that she’s the mother of a 2-year-old boy. With her alt-country singer-songwriter style, it’s even harder to believe that she is one of the most popular singers in Australia and that her latest album, “Wayward Angel,” is No. 1 on the Australian pop charts.

Tonight at the 9:30 Club downtown, fans can find out just how she’s managed it all.

“I do have moments of ‘Oh, my God, what’s going on in my life?’” Miss Chambers says.

It’s not surprising she feels that way. It has been five years of incredible success. Her debut album, “The Captain” was an award winner that sold very well. But it was nothing compared with her second album, “Barricades and Brickwalls,” released in 2001. That album has been certified seven-times platinum in her native Australia. It also had a No. 1 single, and Miss Chambers won five ARIA awards (the Australian counterpart to the Grammy).

In the middle of all this, Miss Chambers had a baby.

“I guess as soon as you have a baby, your whole priorities just shift around so naturally anyway,” Miss Chambers says. “All of a sudden, this little thing is now the biggest thing in your entire life.”

One of the priority shifts was in her songwriting. It slowed down significantly, but that didn’t diminish the quality. The songs on her new album are as creative and touching as ever.

“I think just going through anything emotional in your life definitely brings out different creative sides in you,” Miss Chambers says. “And obviously, having a baby is the most emotional thing I’ve ever been through, good and bad.”

Although Miss Chambers identifies only the title song on the new album as one she wrote about her young son, many of the songs have echoes of childhood. “Mother” is a moving tribute to loving memories of a mother. In “Pony,” Miss Chambers uses her little-girl sound to its fullest, singing in the cutesy voice of a preschooler. It is a sweet love song from the mind of a little girl, and the images are of ponies, cowboys, flowers and golden rings. In “Lost and Found,” Miss Chambers evokes a simple, childlike wish to be kept safe and loved.

For Miss Chambers, the new album is a true reflection of herself.

“It’s more me than I’ve ever been, from the songwriting side, but also just musically in the studio side of things as well,” Miss Chambers says. “I feel like I’m a bit more comfortable with how I sound.”

When the band Soulive, playing tomorrow at the State Theatre in Falls Church, signed a recording contract with the legendary jazz label Blue Note, it was a great career boost. It made the cover of Down Beat magazine, the jazz bible, and its first Blue Note album, “Doin’ Something” (2001), was a huge critical success.

But all the promotion has had its drawbacks: “Getting slapped with a big fat jazz label on us,” says Soulive drummer Alan Evans. “People have to put a label on you. They are always going to do that. We never really saw ourselves as a jazz group. We’ve been kind of fighting that ever since.”

Mr. Evans, his brother Neal (keyboards) and guitarist Eric Krasno prefer to call what they play soul music. “That’s more where we come from and what we really know,” Alan Evans says. The Evans brothers grew up listening to the likes of Marvin Gaye, Donny Hathaway, and James Brown.

The band has also been typed as “funk,” with music writers relating them to earlier groups such as Sly and the Family Stone and Parliament-Funkadelic.

Alan Evans is more comfortable with that tag. “It’s such a great, feeling genre. It’s cool because it can be really simple, you can just dance to it, just groove to it. At the same time, it’s not easy; it’s not easy to play and make it really happen.”

Soulive has been able to adapt the funk sound and rhythm and combine it with more current urban hip-hop sounds to create a progressive and unique instrumental sound.

Though uninterested in being labeled jazz musicians, the members of Soulive have a fairly jazz-oriented approach to their playing. They all recognize the importance of learning from past masters and practicing the underlying frameworks of their music.

Rather than just winging it as many young improvisational jam bands do, Soulive relies on patterns and frames to bring them back in line when they venture out into improvisational solos.

“The cool thing is, from night to night, you never know,” Alan Evans says. “There’s a lot of structure, but also we’re not afraid to completely let go of that structure either. It happens every once in a while. Sometimes it works out, and sometime you fall on your face.

“Like my father always used to tell me, ‘As long as you start and stop together, it’s cool.’”

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