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Rhythm & Views

Kasey Chambers and Shane Nicholson

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Forget everything you know about Australian alt-country chanteuse Kasey Chambers before sitting down to listen to the album she co-wrote and recorded with husband, Shane Nicholson, who, we gather, used to be a pop-rock star in his native land.

Forget it all, because there's very little that's "alternative" or precious about Rattlin' Bones, a thick slab of traditional American music that owes more to the folk and bluegrass moments in the careers of Johnny Cash and June Carter than anything having to do with Ryan Adams. Relying on deceptively simple song structures, Chambers and Nicholson offer an emotionally engaging and wide-ranging cast of characters, from the ghostly lovers in the title track, asking to be buried "down, beneath the ground with the dust," to the gospel-minded preacher man of "The House That Never Was." Moreover, each song has its own unique groove, whether it's the beer-stained honky-tonk strut of "Sweetest Waste of Time" or the crazed Appalachian free-for-all of "The Devil's Inside My Head."

Intimate and elegant in every respect, Rattlin' Bones feels like it was recorded in a single take with live musicians. Arrangements are simple yet powerful, with only acoustic guitars, banjo, fiddle and kick drum to decorate the warmly intertwined voices of Chambers and Nicholson. They sound like imperfect lovers in some songs, perfect highway killers in others. If only more roots music sounded this authentic, this attuned to the best and worst impulses in men and women.

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