Talent is key, but dedication is crucial. Courtney Chambers has proven, if nothing else, that her commitment to writing and recording top shelf material will never dim. Her decade plus long career began with the 2001 release of Imperfect like Me on her own label Royal Daughter Records and she released two follow-up works between then and 2007. Despite the gaps between each new album, Chambers has returned each time with an immaculately groomed collection revealing her as an artist who never gives up her material until she has it as it should sound. Her latest release, Tales of the Aftermath, provides a brilliant example of this approach at work and its ten self-penned tracks rank among the finest Chambers has yet to produce.
Tales of the Aftermath’s promotional materials promise a groove-centric affair and the album delivers on that immediately. “Fool in Me” is a slinky, reverb-tinged outing with Chambers’ uniquely bluesy voice bobbing and weaving through the instrumentation like a canny boxer. The drumming centers everything and gives Chambers room to emote and move freely without ever prodding her to overplay her hand. “Love and Music” relies on a simple, but affection, lyrical concept certain to resonate with Chambers’ target audience. The guitar takes a bit more of a commanding role and the steady, quasi-march tempo gives the track an inexorable, pressing emotional intensity. “Love and Music” is one of the album’s better orchestrated tracks and achieves its effects in direct, uncluttered ways. Chambers once again marries strong singer/songwriter sensibilities with the light musical touch of melodic Americana on “Forget the Gloom”. The penchant for reverb running through the songs gives them a certain identifiable sonic signature, but it’s never over-used.
“Young Lovers” adopts a leaden, atmospheric tempo for Chambers to weave a torch-song style vocal around. There are streaks of blue darkening the track, just like elsewhere across this album, and it comes from Chambers’ astonishing range. The musicians are focused on dramatizing Chambers’ mood and they succeed admirably. “Wasting Time” has a much more disorderly, spontaneous feel than many of the album’s songs and the rough-hewn guitars jangle somewhere between a folky strum and faint punk attitude. The lead fills popping up through the track hint at darker undercurrents without ever turning too heavy-handed. “Rush In” opens as a delicate, thoughtful acoustic driven ballad before erupting at its midway point into compelling orchestral pop. If Tales of the Aftermath has a big screen, cinematic number, “Rush In” fits the bill and never overreaches despite its relatively modest length.
The album’s closer, “Winter”, gives Tales of the Aftermath an ending not entirely unexpected, but the satisfying predictability takes nothing away from a final breathtaking vocal take from Chambers that draws things to a close on an appropriately pensive note.
by Lydia Hillenburg