Haunted voices – a term usually reserved for people such as Bob Dylan, Hank Williams and others whose catalogues include countless chart toppers on countless albums. You know the type of voice that claws at the ears of listeners with heartbreak and long- suffering. Haunted in the spirit that lets the listener feel the yearning, devastation and desires of the singer. But with her sophomore solo release, Australian singer/songwriter Kasey Chambers gives listeners a complete 14-track tour of a haunted mansion.
Chambers filled her 1999 critically acclaimed album, The Captain, with songs of heartbreak, yearning and devastation. With her second release, Chambers seems to have found an unabashed new way to express those feelings, by constructing Barricades and Brickwalls (Warner Bros.). This time around, Chambers isn’t only searching for lost love, or trying to heal love gone wrong, she instead is giving love a kick in the ass. Songs from her first album, such as “Cry Like A baby” and “Don’t Go,” are replaced with songs such as the rock-edged “Crossfire,” which Chambers depicts blindfolding her man and telling him to take 20 steps on a 10-foot dock. Even with the title track, Chambers doesn’t shy away from taking charge in the courtship process, starting the album with the line, “Barricades and brick walls won’t keep me from you.”
This album doesn’t start off with tears about a lost love, but not all the tracks are arm-crossed, tough-girl anthems either. Chambers still admits to shedding a few because of a spoiled relationship. “A Million Tears” to be exact. In the song, Chambers laments about her role in love gone wrong, singing, “And I’ll drink to the shame / I’ll drink to the madness / That made me this way.”
On a less positive note, similarly to The Captain, Chambers seems to break the flow of the album with a song that doesn’t fit at the end. In her first release, she ends with the hillbilly sounding beat of “We’re All Gonna Die Someday.” Its beats and lyrics break the trend of soft melodies and love songs in an awkward way that seems like maybe the track showed up by accident. This time around the last track (before a bonus, hidden track) “I Still Pray,” seems out of place not because of a Jed Clampet-esque beat, but instead the subject matter: a prayer to Jesus. Its subject matter, although not shocking or poorly done, is distracting and much like her previous album, out of place for a closing track.
Fortunately, it’s not the real closing track. After a minute of silence, “Ignorance” begins. In her final song, listeners can almost hear Chambers choke back tears singing, “I’ve got something to say / And I thought it might be worth a mention / If your not pissed off at the world / Then you’re just not paying attention.” Powerful words delivered in Chambers’ emotionally scratchy, mid-alto voice, addressing the incidents of the Columbine disaster to world hunger and domestic abuse.
Again, much like the track “I Still Pray,” “Ignorance” seems out of place, but is delivered with such head-clubbing, gut-wrenching emotion that either a listener must belt out the lines in a cracked voice alongside Chambers or pretend she isn’t right. She closes the album with, “And you can turn off you TV / And go about your day / But just ‘cos (sic) you don’t see it / It don’t mean it’s gone away.”
- Contact Jarrett Guthrie at oracleguthrie.com