Kasey Chambers’ new covers album, Storybook, nods toward her favorite songwriters.
“It’s a collection from over the years,” the Australian singer says. “The concept was inspired by my autobiography (2011’s A Little Bird Told Me). The one common thread from when I was a child until now was music and the way it’s played such a large part in my life.”
Chambers captures Gillian Welch’s unwavering elegance on her “Orphan Girl” and John Prine’s energy on his tongue twister “Leave the Lights On,” but she most frequently salutes Texas tunesmiths: Steve Earle (“Nothing but a Child”), James McMurtry (“Too Long in the Wasteland”) and Lucinda Williams (“Happy Woman Blues”) among them.
She also turns in sublime readings from kindred spirits Gram Parsons on “Return of the Grievous Angel” and Fred Eaglesmith on “Water in the Fuel” before bringing the album back to heart with Austin transplant Patty Griffin’s “Top of the World.”
“I do come from the other side of the earth and have noticed that I’m drawn to music that comes from Texas,” Chambers says. “I hear the music and I’m drawn to it, and later someone will say, ‘Oh, they’re from Texas.’ I could’ve picked 20 Lucinda songs to put on there. She was such a big part of my influences.”
Ditto Townes Van Zandt. A decade and a-half ago, the 36-year-old cut the legendary Texas songwriter’s classic “If I Needed You” with her family’s Dead Ringer Band, a song she revisits on Storybook.
“It’s really simple,” says Chambers, a bona fide pop star in her native country. “The guy I sing it with, Jimmy Barnes, is super famous in Australia and he has a TV show here called My First Gig. We were looking for a song to sing on the show, and one of the first things he said was, ‘Oh, I love Townes Van Zandt.’ I said, ‘Well, I love Townes Van Zandt, too!’”