In 1998, the Chambers family of the Dead Ringer Band found themselves at the forefront of the Australian country music scene with numerous accolades and awards accompanying their two highly successful albums (1995's Home Fires and 1997's Living in the Circle). For their follow-up, Bill Chambers and his brood decided to dedicate an entire platter to their favorite American country songs, artists, and influences. Hopeville's eclectic mix is as generational as the group members themselves and features songs by such diverse writers as Jimmie Rodgers, Gram Parsons, Michelle Shocked, and Lucinda Williams. Despite the varied material, the Ringers have created a uniform sound throughout the disc by slightly altering each song to fit their style. This approach can be beneficial for artists who are able to give unique makeovers to classic songs, but the Ringers fail to bring anything new or interesting to their selections. Their version of the Emmylou Harris hit "Born to Run" is expertly performed but varies little from the original, with only Kasey Chambers' ruggedly angelic voice providing any kind of spark. And even Kasey herself has a tendency to get lost in her own influences as she basically mimics the performance of Michelle Shocked on that artist's own swinging "Hello Hopeville." The guys don't fair much better, as Bill and Nash lazily lead the way through Hank Williams' "Crazy Heart" and John Prine's "Speed of the Sound of Loneliness," respectively. What makes Hopeville such a disappointment is the fact that this group, whose originals brim with spirit, basically walks through these songs like an above average cover band. Fortunately, their previous successes came first and served as a launching pad for Kasey's excellent solo discs. Had Hopeville been the Ringers' debut release, it could be argued that little attention would have been paid to this talented family and they would have languished on the bar circuit for years hawking their CDs. Luckily, that did not happen, and the curio of Hopeville can be set aside in favor of the Dead Ringer Band's previous releases and the solo discs of Kasey Chambers.
AllMusic Review by Aaron Latham