From the Outback to My Heart

Barricades and Brickwalls (Warner Bros.)

Kasey Chambers

By Kevin Gibson

It isn't often your heart skips a beat in the McDonald's drive-thru line. But that's where I was when I first heard Kasey Chambers' "Not Pretty Enough," and before the song was through, the old heartbeat was erratic at best. Perhaps it was the grease in the sausage biscuit, but I don't think so. I've had enough of that before. Kasey Chambers, for me, was a first.

Now, I'm not usually one to go for "chick rock," as I sometimes call it. (Yeah, I know, it's sexist. Sue me.) The Indigo Girls never did anything for me, and even the tender songwriting of Mary Lou Lord barely dented me. But there's something about this Australian Ms. Chambers that breaks through.

The album opens with the slightly bluesy title track - hooked me. "Not Pretty Enough" followed, and by the time I got to "A Million Tears," my usually tough-to-penetrate exterior was toast. Why? Emotion. Chambers evokes many different feelings with a voice that cracks just enough to be endearing, mixed with songwriting that exhibits anger, sadness, loneliness and hopeful romanticism with equal precision and power.

The Christian overtones of "I Still Pray" kind of threw things off for me, but I found "If I Were You" to be pop perfection, while the slightly edgy "Crossfire" (starring The Living End as the backup band) added a much needed jolt two-thirds of the way through the disc.

All in all, the best thing is that music doesn't get as real as this. One gets the feeling Chambers could do metal just as easily as she tosses off roots-y pop and country, if she decided to put her mind to it. Let's hope she doesn't, but if she does, and she catches me in the right drive-through line, I just might find myself flashing the sign of the beast. Oy.