By Robert Kinsler for the OC Register
When the Courtney Chambers Band performs at the Coach House next week, the Yorba Linda-based group will be slaying the so called sophmore jinx with every note played.
Chambers will be featuring songs from her latest CD, "Higher Places", a 13-track disc that is a formidable follow-up to her debut.
While in 2001's "imperfect Like Me" featured acoustic material such as beautiful "Sitting in Silence" and the poignant "Release", Chambers' latest disc boasts more fully produced and wide-ranging folk rock material that draws strong comparisons with the best work of Beth Orton, Sheryl Crow and Liz Phair.
From the accessible and melodic "Just What I Know" and haunting "Already Know" to the hard-rock edges of "Find My Way", Chambers sings with the kind of emotional authenticity that tragically eludes many strong-voiced singers.
Chambers spent most of 2004 recording, mixing and mastering "Higher Places" at Love Juice Labs studio in La Habra.
The Courtney Chambers Band features Chambers (who sings and plays guitar), drummer Mel Flores (who played with her in an impromptu live session the first time they met at Eastgate Café in Bellflower about a year before he joined her band), bassist Mike Roy and newly recruited lead guitarist Dave Koval.
"I liked the influences she had (Patty Griffin); she liked the rock n' roll stuff (Led Zeppelin, Radiohead). I thought there were things could add to the music" explained Koval, a well known Orange County guitar hero who plays in several other area bands, including Tinseltown and the Siteseers. He has also worked with a number of other strong-songwriters over the past several years, notably John Carrilo and Michele Rene.
"I really liked her voice... there is a passion , and she listens to what you're doing," Koval said of Chambers.
Material off "Higher Places" was featured on KLOS/95.5 FM's "Local Licks" program immediately after its release, but word of mouth and a Courtney Chambers Band page on the popular Myspace Music Internet site are just beginning to introduce Chambers to a larger audience.
"I guess, first of all, I want to keep growing as a musician and a writer," said Chambers, who is already writing material for a third release. In fact, she has posted acoustic demos of some of her newest material on her Myspace site.
Chambers noted how a certain song might connect with a listener, who will play the song over and over again. She wants to tap the deepest part of her emotions to craft those kind of songs.
"That's what I want to do, to reach within more of myself," Chambers said of the process of writing songs.
With Chambers and her band having shown a strong range across their most recent disc, the ensemble's next goal is to perform shows that strike the same kind of sonic pay dirt and release a full length CD.
"We're still developing things, becoming one unit," Chambers said of the foursome, which has performed at a number of small shows and is set for its biggest showcase at the Coach House on Wednesday night.
"There is so much to draw from," Flores said of the wealth of musical styles and artists that undoubtably have influenced Chambers and her band.
By Robert Kinsler for the OC Register
Three times is truly a charm for Courtney Chambers. The talented singer-songwriter, who along with her outstanding sidekicks dubbed the Damage Done, has one of the best local releases of 2007.
Released on her own Royal Daughter Records, "Bigger and Brighter" is a masterful follow-up to 2004's "Higher Places." Chambers' debut, "Imperfect Like Me" was issued in 2001.
"Bigger and Brighter" was produced by Sean Hoffman and features Chambers handling vocals, keyboards, the majority of rhythm and lead guitar duties, as well as sax and flute.
"He really was awesome," Chambers said of Hoffman. "This record for me is very special because it stretched me in so many ways. It was quite an amazing journey."
In addition to Hofman's production and guitar work, the Damage Done (bassist Jeff Hawley and drummer Mel Flores) brings its magic, with a range of genres fitting together nicely across the disc.
Hard hitting indie rock (Bigger and Brighter", "Under Zenith"), sparse folk rock ("Confessions") adult pop ("Are You Ready?") and even jazz ("Pretty") are woven together in a cohesive approach adding collective weight to Chambers' original songs.
"My performance background is almost entirely Latin jazz," Hawley said. "So it was interesting; she is a very cool singer-songwriter who is pushing the envelope. When I first jammed with her and Mel, everything gelled instantly."
Flores admits that the first time he ever performed with Chambers was during a show. He had just finised a sound check with another band he was playing with when Chambers took the stage and started singing and playing guitar.
He continued to play his drums - in time to Chambers song - not realizing she had actually started her acoustic set.
Flores signed up to be on her e-mail list that night and a couple years later when Chambers sent out an e-mail looking for a drummber, he responded.
"With this album, I'm digging what Sean did," Flores noted. "I had concerns that the songs had so much variety, there might not be a cohesive flow. Sean added elements that made the songs cohesive. I love the music Courtney writes."
It is the blend of solid song writing, strong performances and excellent production that yield such fantastic results on "Bigger and Brighter." Fans of artists such as Tori Amos, Jeff Buckley and Fiona Apple will find plenty to appreciate on this excellent release.
"This is the best experience I've ever had recording and creating something," Chambers said.
By Meghan Garvey for 562 Magazine
In an era of hi-tech studio albums and cookie-cutter artists, Courtney Chamber's Imperfect Like Me is a refreshing new item on the music menu. Courtney's ingredients are simple" her trusty acoustic guitar (with a splash of electric), truth-bearing and spiritual lyrics, and ah honest, emotional voice . "I wanted an earthy intimate connection in doing this record. There is something incredible that happens when the music is stripped down of all the 'extras,' and all you are left with is the song and its story," says Courtney of her first full length album. While some might categorize Courtney''s music as Christian, it is better described as spiritual folk rock. On the ten son album., Courtney shares her insecurities, her hopes, and the dynamics of her relationship with God. These are all things we can relate to on one level or another, and all things that remind us of our own journey in life and inspire us to go on. It's a collection of songs for a long solo drive or a quiet night at home or a warm bath. In the title track, "Imperfect Like Me," Courtney affirms, "I find that it's okay to be me," a good piece of advice for all of us.
Courtney Chambers "Bigger and Brighter" Courted the chambers of my heart! What an alluring voice!
The Big Takeover
Chambers seems to be the type of singer that, when performing at open mic nights and coffee houses, makes people in the audience stop in mid sentence and take notice of her wonderfully soulful voice. For such a powerful voice, Chambers avoids the trap of making that the sole focal point, and, instead, surrounds it with radio-friendly adult alternative music that, at times, borders on rural rock. Sean Hoffman's slide guitar on "Any Way", "pencil and Paper", and "Old Fashioned" reminds of Dave Chernis's playing on the first two Dawnwells records, and it's just enough to push those songs from good to great. If Chambers wants to follow in the footsteps of one of her influences, Sheryl Crow, she'll have to write more songs like "Bigger and Brighter" and "Are You Ready?" Personally, I'd like to see her dive deeper into the rural rock /alt. country sound as that genre lacks strong female singers, and Chambers would stick out (in a positive way) in that boy's club. (courtneychambers.net)