Written by James Killen
On March 14, Australian musical artist, Kacey Chambers will be appearing at the Heights Theatre along with Parker Millsap to promote her new double disc album, Dragonfly. She has gathered twenty songs that with very few exceptions generally drive toward a single theme, that of a strong, yet fragile, world-wise, yet innocent woman. The songs draw on pop, bluegrass, folk, blues and rock influences and may very well be her most adventurous endeavor to date.
The second track of the first disc, “Ain’t No Little Girl”, initiates the theme with Kacey belting out a defiant bluesy boast of being able to take the good with the bad, backed up by an outstanding guitar solo. She quickly follows that with the sad “Summer Pillow” about a broken heart and broken promises.
The sixth cut, “Romeo and Juliet”, imagines what it would be like to wake up to find that your true love had taken his life and is performed in a slightly Celtic folk style. The eighth track grows defiant again, proclaiming you “Ain’t Worth Suffering For” in a blues rock style that is reminiscent of a song that Lucinda Williams might have written. The courtship dance is renewed with the tenth track, “Hey”, depicting a man and woman comparing each other’s attributes to harmonica and banjo accompaniment.
Throughout the first disc, Kacey sprinkles some songs that diverge from the theme, like “Golden Rails” a bluegrass gospel tune about riding a train to heaven and “Jonesboro”, about how people were lured from a cruel world to follow Jim Jones with their families to an eventual death cult. There is a ballad about “Henri Young” who went to jail for petty theft and ended up being forgotten in solitary confinement for three years instead of 19 days, making him feral and eventually murdering a fellow prisoner.
“Long Year” is a commentary about society moving from a fact based news diet to one that prefers sensationalism and features a slow burn guitar solo of note. My favorite song that doesn’t quite follow the theme is “Talking Baby Blues”, which comes out as Kacey’s autobiography spun in a Dylanesque talking blues format.
The second disc stays a little closer to the theme, starting out with “Shackle and Chain” about a young girl being tricked into a marriage and is done in the style of a chain gang spiritual. The title track, “Dragonfly” is a delicate declaration of love for only one man from the perspective of an innocent young girl. Ms. Chambers tosses in a Louisiana blues dirge called “If I Died”, played on an electric slide guitar through a fuzz pedal.
“Satellite” describes how a young girl’s life orbits around that of her lover and is followed by “No Ordinary Man” about a woman scorned finding Jesus instead of embarking on a campaign of revenge. “If We Had a Child” describes the hope for the future that comes with motherhood and “Annabelle” describes the grief of losing loved ones to death or absence. A bluegrass tale of giving in to temptation unfolds on “Devil’s Wheel”.
The second disc ends with another version of “Ain’t No Little Girl”. This one is different than the defiant one that started the theme. This one replaces the electric guitar solo with accordion and pedal steel melodies. Instead of defiance the tone is more of lost innocence and an acceptance of the world as it is, the protagonist having come full circle.
It’s ironic that the disc’s theme starts and ends with “Ain’t No Little Girl” considering the youthful nature of Kacey’s voice. In fact she isn’t a little girl, she is forty-one, having grown up being the daughter of a touring musician and then becoming one in her own right. She has gathered all of the love experiences and disappointments that go along with them and wrapped them up in a nice two disc package. I’d highly recommend this production. It is pleasing and diverse on the first listen and the lyrics draw the listener deeper into its message the more times it cycles through your disc player.