Kacy & Clayton and Marlon Williams (from the album Plastic Bouquet available on New West Records) (by Chris Wheatley)
‘Every December, Christchurch enjoys the start of summer as Saskatoon begins to freeze over’. So begins the liner notes to Plastic Bouquet, a collaborative project between Canadian Folk duo, cousins Clayton Linthicum (guitar) and Kacy Anderson (vocals), and New Zealand singer-songwriter and guitarist Marlon Williams. As the story goes, Williams initiated the project upon hearing Kacy & Clayton's song “Springtime of the Year”, (a beautifully exotic and inventive, Spanish-tinged piece), through his radio. Marlon Williams (who has two well-received solo albums to his name) flew to Saskatoon, and the three worked together in person for this album.
“Isn't It” starts things in impressive fashion. Anderson's voice spell-binding, flowing like honey, effortlessly evocative and, yes, haunting. So wondrously balanced is the production that Anderson's voice becomes the proverbial ‘human instrument’, combining organically with solid drums, bass, and delightfully off-kilter guitar. The track walks a remarkable tightrope between pure Pop and something more dense, nuanced and intelligent. Violin strings weave subtle traces of light through a wall of fascinating sound. “Isn't It” conjures, during its short length, hazy and electric memories of primal Summers and blurred, fractious futures.
Title track, “Plastic Bouquet”, presents, on the surface, as straightforward Folk-Country. What sets it apart is the first-class musicianship, Anderson's purring, eternally appealing voice amid washes of post-Pop adventurousness. There's nothing knowingly self-referential here, the trio's passion for pure honest Folk songs shines through. “Light of Love” shambles and rattles with eyes half-closed against the sun. Spanish ornamentations, spiky guitar runs and shuffling drums propel us through another gorgeous arrangement. Something of a 60’s California vibe permeates this track and, indeed, the whole album, but it is a mazy, slightly distrustful vibe full of pathos, longing and hope.
What consistently amazes one, upon experiencing this album, is just how easy and unaffected the trio manage to make this sophisticated, lush music sound. For all of its multi-layered tapestry, Plastic Bouquet remains effortlessly accessible. The wistful “Arahura” on which Williams takes lead vocals, winds through a molasses canyon, throwing out sparkling hooks like candy. Williams high, keening voice, it must be said, is a wonderful foil to Anderson's, full of sad-eyed, good-natured appeal. “Last Burning Ember” returns us to Classic Country-land, albeit with the band's by-now-unsurprising knack for finding wonderfully original ornamentations and flourishes which lift this music several degrees above the usual.
“Devil's Daughter” takes us out; a slow, relatively simple and lovable song, constructed from vocals, bass, brushed drums and acoustic guitar. It is a mark of these player's pedigree that even this straightforward composition grabs the heart and the mind and sweeps us along on a bittersweet journey. Whilst I generally stay clear of comparisons, in this case I feel it is warranted. With Plastic Bouquet, Kacy, Clayton and Williams have created something which, while wholly their own, brings to mind a startling mix of The Band, Dylan and Nick Drake.
Plastic Bouquet is a remarkable record, well worthy of your time. (by Chris Wheatley)
Listen and buy the music of Kacy & Clayton and Marlon Williams from AMAZON
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