KACY & CLAYTON AND MARLON WILLIAMS – Plastic Bouquet (New West Records)

Plastic BouquetCanadians Kacy & Clayton join forces with New Zealand singer-songwriter Marlon Williams for their wonderful new folk album Plastic Bouquet. They play sublime music that touches, as their website says, “Western Country, folk, and the troubadour tradition”.

By the way, Plastic Bouquet echoes the kindred Canadian spirit of Ian & Sylvia Tyson’s “four strong winds that blow lonely” — winds (with continuous magical grace!) that course through these songs.

The first “wind” is the singular voice of Kacy Anderson. As my friend, Kilda Defnut, says in a rare moment of reverence, “Her voice urges spring water from a reluctant well”. The very first song, ‘Isn’t It’, cuts, with both vocals and guitar, sharp angular grooves that needle any stylus’ groove-staying patience. Then a sputtering guitar rocks the tune before a catchy chorus creates its own melodic gravity. This is simply unique (and stunning) folk music. And the title song is a down-to- earth campfire sing-a-long with Kacy’s voice touching the dark beauty of her rooted Saskatoon soil. And ‘Your Mind Is Walking Out’ erupts with a melodic stroll that quickens the pace of Patsy Cline’s ‘Walkin’ After Midnight’. Sure. High praise. Yeah. The tune evokes all the prayers to so many saints—in any number of religions.

And, as Ian Tyson sang, “Seven seas that run high”, well, Marlon Williams’ voice soars in those winds into the heavens in a wonderful rock ‘n’ roll Roy Orbison way with ‘Arahura’. I suppose it’s an obvious comment, but the tune complements the Kacy & Clayton sound much like Neil Young’s ‘Helpless’ added a lonely (but quite lovely) yowl to the positive sound of Crosby, Stills & Nash. The same is true for the country stroll of ‘I Wonder Why’, which contemplates love, the stars above (sorry about the rhyme!), and any 50’s heartbroken star-crossed song with a deserted sad driftwood steel guitar baren shoreline whine. And then the duet with Kacy of ‘Old Fashioned Man’ cements the western slow dance bar room Saturday night beer-stained floor western waltz vibe—and that’s a pretty cool thing to do.

And there is the always constant Clayton Linthicum on guitar, autoharp, and (a bit of) pump organ. Clayton’s guitar work on ‘Light Of Love’ conjures a lovely 60’s tenor, and with the dual voices of Kacy and Marlon, it evokes the psych feel of Fairport Convention, circa the early days when Sandy Denny had just joined the band and prior to the recording of What We Did On Our Holidays. Now, the original Kacy & Clayton were often compared to Richard and Linda Thompson. Big time complement there! Not only that, but (just to brag up his resume), CL was a member of (the very great) The Deep Dark Woods, circa Jubilee. But back to Plastic Bouquet: He colours the up-tempo ‘I’m Unfamiliar’ with retro organ sound and vintage guitar work with a twangy bite. His guitar work, besides being English psych rock perfect, conjures a lovely look into the moment in which county music shared dance steps with 50’s rockabilly, like the sound of (not trying to be sacrilegious here!) Elvis Presley’s ‘Trying To Get To You’ from his first album or an early Conway Twitty song like ‘It’s Only Make Believe’. Odd—and weird—this is all from a folk band from, of all places, Saskatoon, Canada—and a New Zealand singer-songwriter with a “Pacific harmonic sensibility, ethereal melody, and slow burning soundscape” stamped passport.

And the fourth wind simply breezes through all the songs that invoke the hazy Ian Tyson folky vagabond lament, “The good times are all gone/So I’m bound for moving on/I’ll look for you if I’m ever back this way”. Sure. The brisk ‘I’m Gonna Break It’ could be a tribute to Gordon Lightfoot who was “As cold and drunk as I could be” because “You can’t jump a plane like you can a freight train”. The tune is a deep rooted and very Canadian song that’s drenched in “the early morning rain”. Then ‘Last Burning Ember’ cuts deep melodic passion with more of Kacy’s ‘Walkin’ After Midnight’ palpitating voice. Let’s be blunt: With such sublime voices as Kacy and Marlon, these tunes can, quite simply, find rare melodies that lesser talents just can’t fathom.

By the way, I didn’t think KC&M could better the absolutely blissful folk pop song ‘In A Time Of Doubt’ from their (sans Marlon) album Carry On, with the caustic words, “I drank your poison now I’m going back where the water is pure”. Not to worry: (the before mentioned) ‘Your Mind’s Walking Out’ is a photo finish of a melody, and the initial song, ‘Isn’t It’, certainly bleeds with murder ballad gusto with “fear, lust, and a lack of self- possession”. Just check the video! Any one for tennis with Matty Groves?

The brief acoustic ‘Devil’s Daughter’ is the very necessary slow release of folk-rock tension. In a weird way, it reminds me of The Stones’ Sticky Fingers lament that states the obvious: “Oh, when the Lord gets ready/You gotta move”.

And, Plastic Bouquet does just that: It’s “gotta move” through the melodic Canadian wilderness with the fresh breeze of New Zealand’s new world. It swings with old stuff, and it dances with new stuff – and it does all of that with folk music that blows with “four strong winds” that will always sing the pathos of the plight when “good times are all gone” because just like Gordon Lightfoot’s desolate ‘Early Morning Rain’ with its “aching heart” and “pockets full of sand”, Plastic Bouquet is filled with the forbidden fruit – and all the forbidden melodies – that are always found in the sweetest (and often rain drenched) earthy folk musician’s magical and very melodic touch.

Bill Golembeski

Artists’ website: https://www.kacyandclayton.com/

‘Isn’t It’ – official video: