Another Foster's Sunrise

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 becomesthe 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 tropes—lonesome whistles, railroad tracks, finishing your chores before the sun goes down—into 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.

She'd kick Jolene's ass.
photo: Carlotta Moye
She'd kick Jolene's ass.

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 rocker—Bad 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.

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