Black Music Matters Festival

Bill Chambers

Sleeping With The Blues – 2003 (Reckless)

Reviewed by Sophie Best

CDs by Bill Chambers

Woy Woy, a coastal town in New South Wales, is where Bill Chambers - patriarch of Australian country music's family royal - calls home. But Chambers has, it seems, left his heart in Texas. He's toured there numerous visits in daughter Kasey's band, and lately as a singer-songwriter in his own right, and on his solo debut, Chambers humbly takes his place amongst the Texas singer-songwriting tradition which he so plainly admires and has taken deeply to heart.

Chambers declares his loyalties in the opening track, "Dreaming 'Bout Texas," a barroom romance which namechecks La Zona Rosa and other Austin haunts. It's a companion piece of sorts to the title track, "Sleeping With The Blues," which is not unlike a classic Steve Earle ballad. Like most of the album, it's slow and sparse, the best exception being "Gimme One More Chance," where Chambers' crack band lets rip with a rollicking honky-tonk shuffle.

Of the three covers, the real standout is "I Drink" by Louisiana's Mary Gauthier. Lyrics such as "I got my Daddy's blood inside my veins" take on a new poignancy by way of a male narrator, and Chambers' gruff yet vulnerable voice is just perfect for this grimly humoured portrait of a confirmed alcoholic. A sobering drinking song, if ever there was one!

"Hold You In My Heart," a duet with Kasey, is a Dead Ringer Band reunion with mother Diane on bass, and brother Nash on backup vocals. Kasey's voice sounds surprisingly mature alongside Bill's, with only occasional hints of the girlishness that makes her solo work so appealing. The father-daughter harmonies are just sublime, proving that the Chambers family bloodline is unbroken.

Chambers' other guest is Audrey Auld, and together they have a riotously good time on "Big Ass Garage Sale," a Fred Eaglesmith novelty song. Auld also has a co-write, "The Whiskey Isn't Workin'," a swinging trad-styled number which sees Auld and Chambers harmonising with ease and grace. Chambers offers a welcome addition to the impressive and growing Chambers family catalogue.