Concert Review: Kasey Chambers at The Birchmere

Juli Thanki | July 12th, 2011

kasey chambersBeing six months pregnant in the sauna that is a Washington, DC summer—after a transcontinental flight and sleeping in a tour bus bunk—seems, well, pretty miserable. You wouldn’t know it by looking at Kasey Chambers, though. Her Saturday night show at Alexandria, Virgina’s Birchmere was an hour and forty minutes of pure delight thanks to her infectious alt-country tunes and cheeky sense of humor.

At 35 years old, Australian singer-songwriter Chambers has been playing music for over half her life. “I have absolutely no other skills,” she joked, before gesturing to her belly. “I guess my other skill is getting knocked up.” Newest album Little Bird made up only a quarter of the set list as Chambers drew mostly from her earlier solo work like Barricades and Brickwalls (“it went seven times platinum, but platinum in Australia is, like, twenty copies”) as well as children’s album Kasey Chambers, Poppa Bill, and the Little Hillbillies, which thrilled the wee ones—and their parents—in the crowd.

Since DC is a bluegrass town, Chambers fit right in as she and the band ripped into a grassy medley of her songs “Not Pretty Enough” and “The Captain,” as well as decidedly non-country classics “Stayin’ Alive” and “Beat It.” The breakneck pace left Chambers out of breath as she remarked “Bluegrass was definitely not made for a pregnant woman—I’m exhausted!” Yodeling, however, seemed to suit her just fine as she delivered a fantastic, keening version of “Pony.”

Her band, featuring father Bill Chambers and guitarist/banjo player Michael Muchow, was on point throughout the show, but the revelation of the evening was teenage fiddler Ashleigh Dallas, straight out of Tamworth, Australia’s country music capital. Her voice is mature beyond her years, evident as she accompanied Chambers on a fantastic cover of Nanci Griffith’s “I Wish It Would Rain” and filled in for Shane Nicholson on “Rattlin’ Bones.” When Dallas and Bill sang a brand new country duet they wrote together that was reminiscent of some of Guy Clark and Emmylou Harris’ collaborations, it became obvious that this young woman is a triple threat: hopefully we’ll be hearing lots more from her in the future.

They closed with the rollicking, devil-may-care “We’re All Gonna Die Someday,” before returning for an extended encore that was still too short for the capacity crowd. If Chambers and her band play a club near you, don’t miss the show; chances are it’ll be one of the best you see all summer. Pick up a copy of Little Bird while you’re at it: it’s a wonderful collection of freakishly catchy roots pop, and after all, the incoming littlest hillbilly is going to need some diapers.


Your Day Will Come

Beautiful Mess

Last Hard Bible

On a Bad Day

Devil On Your Back

Not Pretty Enough

Still Feelin’ Blue (a Gram and Emmylou cover)

Biggest Backyard

The Captain

Do You Remember?

I Wish It Would Rain

Georgia Brown

New Ashleigh Dallas/Bill Chambers duet that is, so far, unavailable on an album

Bluegrass Medley: Not Pretty Enough/The Captain/Stayin’ Alive/Beat It


We’re All Gonna Die Someday


This Flower

Grievous Angel

Rattlin’ Bones

Cry Like a Baby

  1. Leeann Ward
    July 12, 2011 at 3:21 pm

    Sounds like a terriffic show. I doubt she’ll come anywhere near us, so I’ll settle for listening to the new album, which is, indeed, wonderful.

  2. Jon
    July 12, 2011 at 4:00 pm

    Hey, those tour bus bunks are pretty comfy! Just sayin’…

    My Critics Pick for tonight’s Station Inn (Nashville) show here:

  3. Ben Foster
    July 12, 2011 at 4:46 pm

    I’m enjoying the album very much. If I ever have the chance to see her live, I definitely will.

  4. steve w
    July 12, 2011 at 5:18 pm

    ive seen kasey play live at least 7 times here in australia and i even drove 1600 km to see her play a charity gig in tamworth in 2005 where entry was a gold coin donation to raise money for local charities… kasey is an absolute aussie treasure as also is her entire familythey give so much back ….dont forget tho they came from humble beginningsand have worked very hard….well done kiddo we love ya

  5. Rick
    July 12, 2011 at 7:50 pm

    What(!), no dates on the West Coast! This is outrageous and a grievous oversight! Oh well, you can’t win them all…

    As for Ashleigh Dallas, I have a friend in Toronto that attends the Tamworth Festival each January and he alerted me to her back in early 2010. He even bought me Ashleigh’s debut EP as a souvenir and told me she was one to keep an eye on.

    Bill Chambers has a habit of working with talented female artists that he sees potential in and helps to bring out their best. Those lucky enough to earn his mentoring have included Catherine Britt and Katie Brianna (as teenagers), Audrey Auld (Mezera), Kimber Sparks, Sandra Humphries, the family band The Lees and many others I’m probably not aware of! Heck, he even used to invite Sunny Sweeney on stage at his Austin, TX gigs long before she recorded her first album. I’ve nicknamed Bill Chambers “The Godfather of the Aussie Country Music Scene” for at least the last 10 years or more. And the best part is his music is not all cheesy like Lee Kernaghan…

  6. Jeremy Dylan
    July 12, 2011 at 8:03 pm

    It’s heartening how Kasey is being embraced in the US. The accolades are richly deserved.

  7. Bruce Warner
    July 12, 2011 at 8:28 pm

    I would have stayed all night if they had kept playing, just a fun, fun evening. Kasey is just fabulous, and so was the rest of the band. Ashleigh Dallas is amazing! How someone only 18 years old can sing and play like she can is astounding.
    Hope I don’t have to wait another 2 years to see them all again.

  8. Shelley
    July 12, 2011 at 8:58 pm

    I wish she were going to be playing in CA this go round. I missed her a few years back, and I adore her music! So jealous of all who are getting the chance to see her perform live! Keep up the excellent work Kasey…you are like no other :)

  9. Rick J
    July 12, 2011 at 10:39 pm

    Sounds like it was a Great show. I sure hope to see Kasey come around the midwest some day.

  10. Ryan B
    July 13, 2011 at 1:14 am

    Just came home from the Nashville show at the Station Inn. Man, what an incredible show, and a fantastic band. Kasey’s voice sounded awesome, and I think it’s safe to say Ashleigh blew everybody away. We’ll be seeing more of her very soon.

  11. SamB
    July 13, 2011 at 7:50 am

    It is indeed a wonderful album (though not her best, I’d say), and I’d love to have been able to see her live. Unfortunately, I don’t see her coming to the UK any time soon.

  12. Sam G.
    July 13, 2011 at 10:16 am

    There’s a Kasey Chambers kids’ album out?!?! Oh man, that would be a good addition to my girls’ collection, right along side the Farmer Jason albums and the recent Tom T. Hall tribute album.

  13. Leeann Ward
    July 13, 2011 at 11:58 am

    Ditto to Sam, but I was thinking for my own collection, since I don’t have the kids to use as an excuse.:) I want that album though.

  14. Mark E.
    July 13, 2011 at 9:48 pm

    I’m the guy Rick spoke about from Toronto and yes, Ashleigh Dallas is freakin’ amazing! I’ve been going to Tamworth for 11 years and Ashleigh’s show when I first saw her in 2010 was THE BEST HOUR OF MUSIC I’ve seen in all those Tamworth festivals! She is THAT GOOD! What a career she has ahead of her!!

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