By Mike Dunn
New West Records
Following up an album which saw your band ascend to some truly rarified air for a Western Canadian group might be daunting for some, but Kacy & Clayton’s latest, The Siren’s Song, finds the southwestern Saskatchewan duo not only meeting the promise shown by 2015’s Strange Country, but exceeding it. Produced by legendary Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy, The Siren’s Song sees Kacy Lee Anderson and Clayton Linthicum continuing to expand their sound, deftly combining the many strains of traditional acoustic folk music with the sunny feel of ‘60s California folk and the lean edge of ‘70s country rock. While Anderson and Linthicum have often worked with sepia-painted vignettes of the past with cleverly cloaked references to more modern times, The Siren’s Song tends to do so a little more clearly, with a welcome transparency.
The first single, “The Light Of Day,” kicks off the record with a gentle pull in the beat and a tasty, twanging riff from Linthicum. Anderson sweeps in, recounting the narrative of a woman finding an old photo of happier times in the bottom of a drawer, before the chorus drops with a timeless lament in which it’s often “proper” to keep quiet and not be misrepresented by other people’s perceptions of what they have to say. It would be easy to miss that conclusion, as catchy as the hook is and in Anderson’s melodic dexterity, bathing her lines with an upbeat melancholy that underscores the graceful notion of “keep your thoughts to yourself and you’ll be fine.” Linthicum lays down a slick fingerpicked acoustic lead over the electric rhythm guitar, a unique arrangement choice that complements the number with assured subtlety.
“Just Like A Summer Cloud” leads off in a similar fashion, further establishing the ensemble-based direction and sonic vibe of the record. Linthicum’s slinky bends swirl with tremolo and a subtle piano chording low notes through the changes, while Anderson’s pining tale of a relationship of convenience hinges on lines like, “miles they lie between our love, it’s my worst enemy, but I think it sets you free to make the rounds and do the girls you please.”
The acoustic folk of the set is a persistent reminder of the duo’s beginnings, and of their near encyclopedic knowledge of traditional styles; often, cuts like “Cannery Row,” “Go On And Leave Me,” feel like they could have been passed down over Appalachian generations, updated with the locked-in-yet-relaxed rhythm section work of Shuyler Jansen and Mike Silverman.
Tweedy wisely resists throwing all the bells and whistles onto the production and arrangements of The Siren’s Song, giving the band a lean, live sound, with Anderson and Linthicum adding their own fiddle and pedal steel parts sparingly. The Siren’s Song crackles with smart vocal and instrumental hooks and the classic warmth of its influences, firmly establishing Kacy & Clayton as one of Canada’s most tuneful and musically engaging folk rock groups.Kacy & Clayton, New West Records, The Siren’s Song