The Quietus - A new rock music and pop culture website


Kacy & Clayton and Marlon Williams
Plastic Bouquet Lara C Cory , January 14th, 2021 09:30

Canadian roots duo team up with Pacific country singer-songwriter Marlon Williams for an album that is equally steeped in tradition and refreshingly modern, finds Lara C Cory

Once in a while you hear a song and you know it’s going to be a classic. Well, a personal classic anyway. That’s how it was when I heard ‘The Arahura’ by Kacy & Clayton, the Canadian folk/roots duo from Saskatchewan. Except that it isn’t a Kacy & Clayton song, it was written, performed and recorded by New Zealand singer-songwriter Marlon Williams back in 2016.

There’s something about a country/folk song that touches something more profound than your average pop tune; the traditions of melody and form to the allegorical lyrics which can explore everything from murder and forests, to betrayal and faith. It’s very rare these days to hear a great album that stays faithful to the continuum upon which the folk and country genres are part of and yet still feels contemporary. As separate acts, both Kacy & Clayton and Marlon Williams are part of this exclusive group who are able to honour both, and for Plastic Bouquet they’ve come together to make an album that is as relevant to modern ears as it is those more attuned to the old ways.

Cousins Kacy Lee Anderson and Clayton Linthicum have been embracing a vintage aesthetic since they began making records back in 2011. Possessing the plaintive country stylings of Emmy-Lou Harris and the thornier expressiveness of Angel Olsen, Kacy’s lead vocals play a major role in defining the musical character of the duo, while their combined and considerable guitar skills and harmonic flair contribute to the authenticity of their sound. Genre tags will tell you that Kacy & Clayton are folk/Americana, but for their latest release there’s a few tracks like ‘Isn’t it’ and ‘Your Mind’s Walking Out’ with a decidedly modern bent that’s more in line with bands like Big Thief and Weyes Blood. And yet, for the most part, Plastic Bouquet has a much stronger country influence thanks to the involvement of Williams with tracks like ‘Old Fashioned Man’ and ‘I Wonder Why’ making you swear you heard them somewhere before, a very long time ago.

Which brings us back to ‘The Arahura’, a melancholy ballad about the Arahura river which lies on the west coast of New Zealand’s South Island. The river was and still is important to the Māori as a major resource of pounamu (greenstone). The naïve and tender lyric reflects this history, drawing upon deeper themes of nature, life, death and legacy – something you don’t find much of outside of the folk/country genres. But while Williams might specialise in what he calls a more “Pacific style” of country, he feels the strength in the music that Kacy & Clayton play, the “rural weariness” of the tales that have been told a million times over, each in their own way.

Maybe that’s why I feel particularly drawn to this song and this record, there is, as Williams says comfort to be found in tradition; the poignancy of a collective fortitude acquired from centuries of hardship and the uplifting sentiment of the will to overcome.