Kasey Chambers

Carnival

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After firmly establishing herself as the most gifted artist on Australia's country music scene with her first three solo albums, Kasey Chambers has given herself some new worlds to conquer on 2006's Carnival. While Carnival is roots-friendly enough that it isn't likely to seriously alienate most of her fans, this album does represent a clear and decisive break from the country-influenced approach of her earlier music; most of these 12 songs are easygoing but satisfying roots rock with a bluesy undertone, though the vengeful "I Got You Now" is real-deal rock & roll with plenty of tough rave-up guitar from Mark Punch, there's a jazzy sway to "Light Up a Candle," and "You Make Me Sing" is a sexy bit of late-night funk. Carnival places Chambers' music in new surroundings, but for the most part she herself (thankfully) seems little changed. As a vocalist, Chambers remains wonderfully expressive while maintaining a realistic emotional palate at all times, and her instrument is simple but gorgeous. As a songwriter, she keeps getting better at writing about the stuff of everyday lives (love, lust, disappointment, getting on with life) with an uncommon degree of horse sense and attention to detail, and if anything, the new musical backdrops have added to the depth of her emotional landscapes. And with her brother Nash Chambers once again on hand as producer, the music is as soulful and smart as her singing, which is no small accomplishment. With Carnival, Kasey Chambers gives up her title as the greatest Aussie country singer alive and becomes -- the greatest Aussie singer around today? Maybe that's going a bit far to make a point, but after hearing this album, most people would be much less likely to argue the point.

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