Concert Review: Kasey Chambers at The Birchmere
Being 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
Last Hard Bible
On a Bad Day
Devil On Your Back
Not Pretty Enough
Still Feelin’ Blue (a Gram and Emmylou cover)
Do You Remember?
I Wish It Would Rain
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
Cry Like a Baby
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