Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Your 2008: Two Country(ish) Records

(For the third straight year, I've asked a few of
my readers and friends to write about their favorite things
from this past year. The series continues here with
a post by Dan Carlson, who blogs at
Slowly Going Bald.)

Kasey Chambers has been making authentic, lyrically honest alt-country for years. She’s Australian, but her vocal twang and lovelorn sensibility have been outpacing her stateside competitors, and her latest album is the most recent evidence that she knows how to do country better than most. Teaming with husband Shane Nicholson, Chambers’ Rattlin’ Bones is a fantastic record, a stripped-down collection of songs that encompass everything from ballads (“Sweetest Waste of Time”) to classic songs in the Carter family tradition (“The House That Never Was”). It’s alternately sweet and sad, and Chambers’ voice beautifully blends with her husband on duets that will break your heart. If you’ve never heard of Chambers, or even if you don’t like country, this is the place to start.

Justin Townes Earle's The Good Life is everything you’d expect from a man fathered by Steve Earle and named after Townes van Zandt, which is to say, it’s a solid collection of story songs, alt-country, and old-school sounds that’s completely listenable. “The Good Life” has a Hank Williams swing to it, while “South Georgia Sugar Babe” has a bluesier stomp that would be right at home on one of the elder Earle’s records. Justin Townes Earle is determined to do right by his dad, his namesake, and his influences, and every song on the album can be pegged to one of those sources. However, the resulting record doesn’t feel fragmented; rather, it feels like a young musician — the kid is like 25 — exploring the music he loves and trying to figure out how to tie it all together.


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