Kasey Chambers Carnival

Kasey Chambers’ fourth release is more manna from the heavens. Firmly established in Australia as a country superstar, she has always been perceived on these shores as more of a roots-friendly rocker — with a delicious twist that paints her somewhere between Iris Dement (her innocent, fragile side) and Chrissie Hynde (her fiercely independent, balls-to-the-walls side). Carnival offers 12 originals, underlining her exceptional gifts as a songwriter. But Chambers’ strengths have always been found in her delivery. Granted, a few tracks here seem to be pushing hard in an adult contemporary direction ("Sign on the Door/Don’t Look So Sad”), but she hasn’t sold out yet. Alternating between tender seductress ("Colour of a Carnival/Dangerous”), harder-edged rocker ("I Got You Now”) and general crowd pleaser ("The Rain”), her approach is simple but effective. Band-members — under the tight rein of brother/producer Nash — add significantly to the overall effect of her music (listen to "Light Up a Candle” for the full effect). Songs like "Nothing At All” and "Railroad Song” are instant Chambers classics and worth the price of admission alone. This is one carni act worth catching when the wagons roll into town. (Warner)