By Steve Weinstein
By Bryan Bierman
By Lindsey Rhoades
By Chaz Kangas
By Ben Westhoff and Sarah Purkrabek
By Jena Ardell
By Jesse Sendejas Jr.
By Katherine Turman
From the title on down, "Barricades and Brickwalls" also scans as a caustic response to Lucinda Williams's more conventionally romantic "Concrete and Barbed Wire." Where Williams pines away for her badass locked-up boyfriend ("Somewhere in Louisiana my sugar's doing time/But he can't spend time with me"), Chambers becomes the locked-up badass, not to mention a honky-tonk femme fatale, and potentially, a spectral stalker: "Barricades and brick walls won't keep me from you," she says, and you believe her. You even get the feeling she'd kick Jolene's ass.
Chambers is a stylistic outsider, necessarily a pretender to a form that reifies "authenticity" and where hooks are frequently optional. She twists alt-country's tropeslonesome whistles, railroad tracks, finishing your chores before the sun goes downinto new shapes, a knack she shares with female fellow travelers Freakwater, credentialed indie rockers whose country signifies as drag, and the wondrous Iris Dement, whose efforts to politicize the form have made her a movement pariah.
Even better, sometimes Chambers just ignores the conventions altogether. "Am I Not Pretty Enough" would sound fine on the radio next to Britney's "I'm Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman." And "Barricades and Brickwalls" could easily segue into some other moody, stomping rockerBad Company's "Shooting Star," say, or Nirvana's "Rape Me," a song whose perspective it shares and whose writer Chambers has likened to Gram Parsons. That's a comparison Parsons would appreciate, since he knew that formal distinctions were for confounding. So does Kasey Chambers. You go, cowgirl.