By Mike Dunn
CALGARY — It’s exceedingly rare that artists of the folk music persuasion possess the comfort and confidence to maintain a raw, live-off-the-floor feeling in their recordings. There’s a propensity to desire a full-production to flesh out the song, rather than let the song do the heavy lifting. Perhaps that’s the reason that audiences, fellow musicians, and the music industry have found Kacy & Clayton’s lean and largely unadorned recordings so endearing. There’s a feeling of minimalist magic throughout 2013’s Kacy & Clayton and 2016’s Strange Country, largely due to the lilting, ethereal quality of Kacy Lee Anderson’s voice, and the rich guitar playing of Clayton Linthicum, so knowledgeably steeped in folk traditions that he seamlessly blends British, Appalachian, and Delta Blues feels within single sections.
The praise has been so widespread that Strange Country has been re-released by New West Records, a development whose significance is not lost on Linthicum. “New West has released records by Richard Thompson, Bobby Neuwirth, Ray Davies, and lots of other artists we really admire, and there was a hope that we’d have some label presence in the U.S. and Europe, but we didn’t really expect to have such a historic label pick up the album.”
Strange Country was originally released in Canada on Big White Cloud Records, a small independent label based in Vancouver which Linthicum and Anderson helped start with Ryan Boldt, of The Deep Dark Woods (Linthicum plays guitar in The DDWs), and singer-songwriter/producer Shuyler Jansen, who helmed the production of the album. “Ryan and Shuyler have exposed us to the records that have formed our tastes,” says Linthicum, “and they’ve taught us how to tour. We’re all great pals. We’re on the same page musically and personally, which makes working together a real joy.”
For his part, Jansen says it was relatively easy to work in the studio with Anderson and Linthicum. “They came fully formed into the recording of Strange Country, most bands need way more arranging from their producer. Kacy and Clayton write and interpret one-of-a-kind songs, and therefore their exceptional talents as singers and musicians is kind of mind-boggling.”
The pair from Wood Mountain, Saskatchewan may be the most recently successful of that province’s musical exports, but the Land of Living Skies has been experiencing a sustained rise to prominence, as evidenced by the long-running success of The Deep Dark Woods, Shooting Guns, the hard-touring Black Thunder, and younger artists making regional impacts such as Colter Wall, Library Voices, and Megan Nash. Linthicum won’t point to any specific reason for the upswing, but is a strong supporter of Saskatchewan music. “I think the music scenes in Regina and Saskatoon are fantastic. They’re really different from each other, but they compliment each other in the best way.”
While touring has kept Anderson and Linthicum away from home for a while, including their first time touring Europe, supporting Daniel Romano, plans for the follow-up to Strange Country are already in the works. “Kacy and I have been planning the next record for a while now,” says Linthicum. “All I can say publicly is that we’re very excited to make the next record, hopefully this December.” While not divulging much, Linthicum hints toward a larger, more expansive sound, while perhaps throwing some shade as to the look of the album design. “We’ve got some plans for expansion in the production but I don’t want to give too much of that away,” he says, “but the album cover will likely have a sheep-shearing theme.”
Kacy & Clayton perform at the Calgary Folk Music Festival on Stage 5 on Sunday, July 26th as well as part of three workshops on Saturday and Sunday.AB, Alberta, Calgary Folk Music Festival, Calgary Folk Music Festival 2016, Kacy & Clayton