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Kacy & Clayton and Marlon Williams – Plastic Bouquet (Album Review)

Wednesday, 13 January 2021 Written by Huw Baines

Photo: Janelle Wallace

Collaboration is a complex process, even between artists who share a mutual admiration for one another. But on ‘Plastic Bouquet’, the Canadian retro-country duo Kacy & Clayton combine with silken-voiced Kiwi artist Marlon Williams to startling effect. They play off one another with lived-in certainty and a mode of melodic expression that feels as though it has been beamed into the present day from a radio station stuck in the early 1960s.

These are opulent songs that feed off the collective strengths of the trio, with Kacy Lee Anderson’s reedy, storyful voice adding texture and vivid splashes of colour to the backdrop of Williams’ faultless croon. Clayton Linthicum’s guitar weaves between the two poles, popping and whirring its way through counter-hooks and sinuous lead lines. 

The danger with songs such as these, steeped in vintage hues and songwriting crutches that recall a different time, is in turning in empty facsimiles, or merely trying on the clothes without figuring out what it means to inhabit them fully.

The trio cleverly avoid those pitfalls by pairing their loving almost-homages with vivid lyrics that add real stakes to proceedings.

The title track is a deceptively jaunty acoustic number that rolls along nicely, stopping from time to time to reveal the truth behind the depressing floral display. “When a small four-door car was severed in two,” Kacy and Marlon harmonise. “Three girls were killed by a boy they all knew.” 

The following song, Light of Love, is a mellifluous treat where the vocalists spar over Clayton’s expressive, ringing guitar.  “You know I’m going to take care of you,” Marlon says. “You’ll do what you can do,” Kacy deadpans. It’s enough to make you smile at the thought of them hamming it up for the kids while miming on Top of the Pops. ‘Plastic Bouquet’ is full of moments like this, proving that there’s always something new waiting to be said if you can unlock the codes behind the classics.

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