Personnel: Clayton Linthicum (vocals, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, 12-string guitar, steel guitar, autoharp, melodeon); Kacy Anderson (vocals); Meredith Bates (viola); Shuyler Jansen, Barrett Ross (vibraphone); Lucas Goetz (drums, triangle).
Audio Mixer: David Carswell.
Recording information: Ghetto Box Studios, Saskatoon, SK.
Photographer: Dane Roy.
After more than 50 years, it's high time Ian & Sylvia had some serious competition as Canada's greatest folk duo. And Kacy Anderson and Clayton Linthicum are just the folks to throw down the gauntlet, even if they seem a bit shy to be challenging a beloved national institution. Between Kacy's subtle but emotionally powerful vocals and Clayton's multi-instrumental gifts, this duo has created a quietly brilliant second album with 2016's Strange Country. On this set, Kacy & Clayton have melded the rootsy overtones of vintage North American folk revival albums of the '60s with the passionate traditionalism of British folk-rock. Anderson's vocals have drawn comparisons to Sandy Denny, arguably the greatest singer of the British folk scene of the '60s and '70s. While Anderson's instrument isn't as precise as that of the Fairport Convention icon, there's a plainspoken but engagingly sweet tone to her voice that's nearly as effective as Denny's. And Linthicum may not be a guitar hero in the manner of Richard Thompson, but his picking on a variety of instruments is invariably right on the money. Linthicum and his sidemen give this music a low-key but effective atmospheric tone. And the originals he's penned with Anderson are as strong as the three traditional numbers that appear in the album's second half. (And "The Rio Grande" could pass for an outtake from Denny's 1967 album with the Strawbs, with splendid harmonies from Anderson and Linthicum.) Strange Country is that rare album that's clearly ambitious but doesn't sound overcooked. Anderson, Linthicum, and producer Shuyler Jansen have kept the performances and the audio spare enough that the music sounds natural and unforced. These recordings sound like they were cut live in the studio, and if they weren't, this album is truly a marvel of artificial spontaneity. Strange Country is a mysteriously and profoundly pleasing piece of work, and if Kacy & Clayton can create a few more albums this strong, they have the potential to be the new heroes of the North American folk community. Perhaps they should consider a cover of "Four Strong Winds" just to force the issue.... ~ Mark Deming