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The Australian outback may seem worlds away from Texas and Tennessee. But, in truth, the pioneer-style living of the rugged souls who reside in the wilds of Down Under have much in common with the independent rounders of country music's earlier days. Maybe that's why Kasey Chambers, a gutsy Aussie singer with an affinity for roots rock and country music, sounds so much more impassioned and realistic than today's fresh-faced Nashville stars. Chamber's U.S. debut, The Captainalternates between swaggering revelry and tender revelation, making it one of the most striking introductory recordings of the year. She has more in common with Steve Earle and Lucinda Williams -- both of whom are fans of hers -- than with anyone heard on country radio these days. (For more about Kasey Chambers, check out the September back issue of Dish)

Like Chambers, Rokia Traore strives for passionate truths rather than entertaining, easy-to-swallow bromides. A 25-year-old from Africa's Mali, Traore grew up well-traveled thanks to her father, a political diplomat. On the new U.S. release Wanita Traore's music indeed has a political bent, but her point-of-view engagingly trumpets respect for women and for human rights in Africa -- a revolutionary pose for a young female in her native land. Blending traditional African and modern Western instruments, her music is similarly ground-breaking (as well as breath-taking). And despite the language barrier -- her songs are performed in her native Bamanan language -- the stunning quality of her voice and the message of resistance, dignity and inner strength come across with beautiful clarity. / Issue 10 - September 2018
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