With her 1999 solo début album, The Captain, Kasey Chambers divided audiences with her distinct drawling vocals, equal parts husky and shrill. Since then, Chambers has gone on to establish herself as a beloved and highly regarded fixture of the Australian music scene. Chambers co-credits her twelfth studio album, Campfire, to The Fireside Disciples, a trio comprised of Brandon Dodd, with whom Chambers has toured in recent years; Aboriginal elder and long-time family friend, Alan Pigram; and Bill Chambers, her father. Together the four musicians have crafted a charmingly intimate album, making Campfire an incredibly apt title as the listener consistently feels as though are privy to a fireside singalong.
Lead single, and opening number, The Campfire Song, makes it clear that Chambers’ voice has matured over the years, with the abrasive edge that marked her earlier works smoothed off but still being identifiably Chambers. The track’s pleasant, mellow folk vibe is aided by its simple arrangement of vocals and guitars, and Pigram’s delivery of some of the lines in language further adds to the song’s sense of grounding and simplicity. The Campfire Song’s minimal arrangement is one of Campfire’s defining traits, with only a single song, Big Fish, featuring percussion, while Orphan Heart utilises instrumental layering to add complexity to its musical spectrum.
Americana legend Emmylou Harris appears on The Harvest & the Seed, with her vocal delivery contrasting nicely with Chambers’. Goliath Is Dead sees the men vocally take the lead, and with its biblical references the song has the feel of a southern revivalist performance, a sense further reinforced by the addition of harmonica to the instrumentation. Chambers’ goes big on the vocals in the lead up to Now That You’ve Gone’s chorus, an excellent five-and-a-half-minutes that ebbs and flows until it concludes with a gentle release of tension. With Campfire, Chambers and The Fireside Disciples have created an immensely compelling album.