album reviews

Kasey Chambers & Shane Nicholson
Rattlin' Bones
Sugar Hill Records (2008)

After Australian singer Kasey Chambers's solid suite of country-folk albums, it might seem a bit risky to add another variable to her balanced equation, even when that addition is fellow Aussie musician Shane Nicholson, her husband.

Luckily, the gamble pays off exceptionally well: The two make a collection of rootsy country songs that is more instantly accessible than Chambers's solo material. Part of the immediate appeal is Nicholson's silky tenor, which smooths out the sometimes childish tones in Chambers's voice: She begins "Adeline" plaintively, but when Nicholson joins in, any maudlin tones are melded to a more maturely mournful sound. The twangy style of "Bones" lends itself particularly well to their camaraderie. The fiery bluegrass number "The Devil's Inside My Head" and the sweet, traditional-sounding country tune "Sweetest Waste of Time" feel so much fuller with a pair of voices in harmony than just one alone.

That tight collaboration makes "Bones" so much more captivating than just an album of duets. From the stunning harmonies on "One More Year" to the haunting echoes on "No One Hurts Up Here," Chambers and Nicholson sound so good together that her solo albums seem hollow without him.

-- Catherine P. Lewis

.: Originally published: The Washington Post: 12 September 2008
.: Rattlin' Bones on