Campfire is the twelfth studio album by Australian singer-songwriter Kasey Chambers released by Warner Music in late April 2018. Campfire arrives one year after the release of Dragonfly, a twenty-track collection that made its debut at No. 1 and won best country album at last year’s ARIA Awards. In-addition, Chambers was paid the highest compliment by her industry peers at the Golden Guitar Awards in Tamworth last January. She joined the Roll of Renown in recognition of her significant and lasting contribution to Australian country music.
Kasey explains the special inspiration behind the record as a memento to her childhood growing up in the Australian outback. “I feel really lucky with the lifestyle I had. I grew up with such a unique childhood living on the Nullarbor Plain with my family for the first 10 years of my life. We literally lived around this campfire; our dad hunted our food, which our mum cooked on the campfire. We did our schooling and created our entertainment around the campfire. It was a fairly important part of my life, hence the album title. For this album I wanted to bring people to the campfire that was such a big part of my life when I was growing up.”
The arrangements remain sparse throughout its 13 tracks thanks to the instrumentals with instruments you would expect to hear played at a campsite; hence no amplified guitars or drums but plenty of acoustic guitars, banjos and simple percussion. This allows the Kasey’s voice to be the rightful main attraction, backed by ‘The Fireside Disciples’, a collective made up of guitarist Brandon Dodd of Grizzly Train, Kasey’s father Bill Chambers and Yawuru elder, Alan Pigram.
It is her father’s voice that we hear first counting in The Campfire Song, featuring a hushed and spiritually-laced spoken-word interlude by Alan Pigram. This serves as the centrepiece, setting the starry and sweetly-driving tone of the album.
The intimacy of the campfire is exhibited throughout much of the record, allowing Chambers even more license to take you to another world. You’ll hear this with Junkyard Man, a song that plays like an old folk song you can imagine your grandmother singing. A song that you’ve known all your life and but don’t really have any idea the meaning. You can also hear this on the sharp-witted This Little Chicken, Fox & the Bird and Big Fish, literally a song about just that, catching fish.
Now That You’ve Gone is a showstopper on which Chambers opens up her voice to hit some truly memorable notes. Abraham is about how one grieves for all the hurt and hopelessness in the world, and the fact that it’s stripped back allowing us to hear their harmonies and emotion makes it all the more poignant.
Chambers performs a duet with one of her childhood idols, the esteemed American country star, Emmylou Harris on The Harvest & The Seed. This closes a circle as she supported the American country singer on her Australian tour in the early 2000s. When the pair sing in unison, it’s both glorious and devastating; the performances are enlivened from their wealth of life lived. “It is an absolute dream come true that I actually have Emmylou Harris singing a duet with me on Campfire,” Chambers says. “She ended up being an ‘honorary’ Fireside Disciple for the album.”
The Campfire album is a truly unique record, especially one that Australian country music aficionados will embrace. Kasey Chambers will showcase the Campfire album by a 40-date tour between May and August 2018 across Australia. Playing guitar and singing back-up vocals as one of the Fireside Disciples is her proud father. What does Bill Chambers see when he looks across to the woman standing at the centre of the stage each night? “I think I’m the luckiest dad in the world,” he says with a laugh. Check the official Kasey Chambers website for upcoming tour dates and not missing a memorable night with one of our finest singer song-writers.
Album Review by Rob Lyon