Kacy & Clayton and Marlon Williams | Plastic Bouquet | (New West)
4.5 out of Five Stars
Kacy & Clayton — known individually as second cousins Kacy Lee Anderson (vocals, acoustic guitar) and Clayton Linthicum (guitar, keys) —have released five previous albums as a duo over the past decade while winning wide acclaim in the process. However their latest initiative, recorded with New Zealand-based singer/songwriter Marlon Williams and fancifully dubbed Plastic Bouquet, finds them venturing a bit beyond their comfort zone and into realms that reflect a mutual love of traditional folk and country musical traditions and the narrowing of their trans-continental divide as well.
“Marlon had heard one of our songs on Spotify while touring and shot us a DM,” Anderson explains when how the two parties made their acquaintance. “I noticed the message because it was from a verified account, which we don’t have a ton of on our Instagram. We just loved each other’s music. A collaboration just seemed natural.”
Williams concurs. “I heard those guys on Spotify while I was on tour and was bewitched,” he says. “And so I reached out asking if they wanted to do something together. The modern way.”
Happily, the results justified both the expectation and the enthusiasm. There’s a homespun quality to the music that shares the vintage sources each of them sought to emulate, from the down-home appeal of the title track to the mournful melody that underscores “I Wonder Why” and “Arahura,” and the joy and jubilation that’s found on “I’m Gonna Break It” in particular.
“You made your bed
But I still want to lie in it
Don’t want no bad blood
But it’s so hard to quit”
Indeed, the songs — all written by Anderson and Williams — convey a knowing attitude and measured reflection, a sound that resonates through its vintage feel as well as the contemporary craftsmanship. On a song like “Old Fashioned Man,” Anderson and Williams trade verses with a purity and purpose that brings to mind an old Appalachian ballad. The effect is all the more striking considering the cultural disparity and varied locales that had to be overcome in order to make the clean, clear musical connection so evident on the album.
“I think it was because we’d never met each other and we came from very different places,” Williams suggests when asked about what made the recording so unique.
Anderson offers her own observation. “I mean, it was in the middle of December when Marlon came out to record, and he wasn’t prepared for the temperatures in Saskatchewan,” she recalls. “It was like welcoming him into our world. He spent some days on the ranch, and I feel like that experience might have had an influence.”
At the same time, the project was decidedly different for Kacy and Clayton as well.
“Obviously, having half of the songs written by another songwriter is a big difference,”Anderson notes. “Normally Clayton is singing harmonies, so it was a little different singing with Marlon. Also, this is the first record that I co-produced. It was a different experience top to bottom.”
Once the album was written and recordings began in Saskatchewan, the trio retreated to Nashville to finish the final sessions. They’re clearly satisfied with the results. “We wanted to see if we could meld hemispheres,” Williams says in the press release accompany the album’s announcement. “I’m bringing this Pacific style of country music with the harmonies and choral elements. Kacy & Clayton have a super identifiable sound. They embody everything I love about North American folk. There’s a rural weariness where they’re telling tales that have been told a million times in their own way. I feel the strength in it.”
There’s no better example of that fusion than on the tracks “Devil’s Daughter” and “Your Mind’s Walking Out,” two well-paced example of how the harmonies reinforce the melodies’ tones and textures. “We’re a step ahead of the game, We’re a cloud ahead of the rain,” the lyrics to the latter suggest, and indeed, it’s apparent that this fine fusion succeeds, perhaps beyond the parties’ initial expectations. Granted, it’s a long way from Saskatchewan and New Zealand, but it’s the commitment to the cause that narrows that divide so decisively.
That said, we can only hope they choose to gather another bouquet, plastic or otherwise, in the near future.