Kacy & Clayton & Marlon Williams “Plastic Bouquets” (New West, 2020)

A collaboration from opposite sides of the globe. Kacy & Clayton from Saskatchewan in Canada and Melbourne-based New Zealander Marlon Williams. This combination leads to a mouthful of a name; but more importantly, to an album of music which is at times arrestingly beautiful.  Marlon Williams is a country singer. But in the same way as Nick Cave, or Jeff Buckley, are country singers. There’s a strong gothic, noir feel to his songs which chimes in well with Kacy Anderson’s crystal-clear tremolo rich vocals. Williams has supported Brandi Carlile and Springsteen whilst Kacy & Clayton have opened for The Decemberists and Wilco. These are both young acts very much on the rise and that makes their work on Plastic Bouquet quite an event.

The sound is rooted in the darker side of country music: the battle between God and the devil we hear in the music of The Louvin Brothers or The Carter Family. In fact ‘Plastic Bouquet’ itself could be an out-take from a session between the Louvin’s and Maybelle Carter. Elsewhere we hear the folk-pop of the Mamas and Papas on, for instance, ‘Light of Love’ and the broken-hearted sixties ballad of ‘I Wonder Why’. The sixties ethic continues with ‘Last Burning Ember’ and ‘I’m Unfamiliar’ which echo the classic pop ballads of Holly Golightly.

The rhythms, however, set many of these songs apart from straight-ahead country fare. The album opens with ‘Isn’t It’ which showcases Anderson’s plaintive high lonesome voice, with harmony from Williams, in a song which could be an acoustic punk anthem.

The masterpiece of this album, however, is the stunning ‘Your Mind’s Walking Out’. As Anderson’s voice wavers like a thing of fragile beauty, backed by Clayton Linthicum’s slide guitar, William’s warm baritone roots the song in something earthy and organic.

There’s a sense of something a little out of reach that seems to dominate the whole album. Songs that are at once both ethereal and insubstantial whilst being fully formed and direct; taking the country genre in surprising directions. But definitely worthy of the long haul flights needed to bring together acts from distant continents.

Surprising country-pop songs with arrestingly beautiful vocals

About Peter Tomkins 33 Articles
What brought me here? The Mekons, The Men They Couldn't Hang, Weddings Parties Anything, Blyth Power, Husker Du, Johnny Cash, Uncle Tupelo, Old 97s, Jerry Lee Lewis, Son Volt, Steve Earle, Bill Monroe, Sarah Shook, and on and on.
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