Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Like Dolly Parton, or Iris DeMent, or bluegrass fiddler-turned-warbler Alison Krauss, Kasey Chambers has one of those voices that's so country it makes you say hot damn. There's a burr in her drawl, and an emotional catch; sometimes it leaps upwards, or even sidewards. Not only that, she writes memorable tunes with pungent lyrics attached--about cars, nature, southern life. Only thing is, the South she's from is southern Australia. This means that the voice and its accoutrements are conscious creations if you like 'em, blatant affectations if you don't. The Captain (Asylum) is where to find out. Me, I'm a little too impressed by the voice to ask embarrassing questions--I suspect that she's sincere even when she's emoting well-disguised cliches. You've Got the Car, about putting the brakes on romance, and We're All Gonna Die Some Day, about how you can kiss her ass, make me hope she's successful enough to get looser with her mean streak. The result could be good new-fashioned country fun.

Old reggae fans throw up their hands at the jumble of bass and patois that is the dancehall style. But where the annual compilations by the leading dancehall label, VP, are too much to take in, VP's historical overview Dancehall 101 Vol. 1 could make you skank again. Beaty, hooky, bawdy.

In operation since 1969, Cuba's Los Van Van transform everything down to the male chorus into a rhythm instrument. The Best of Los Van Van (Hemisphere, not the lesser Milan Latino compilation) is just the place to acclimate to one of the world's strongest grooves.

Playboy, Oct. 2000

Sept. 2000 Nov. 2000