Kacy & Clayton, "The Siren's Song" (New West)
From the opening bars of "The Siren's Song," the combination of a stark soprano and twangy guitar suggests country music.
But what country? Second cousins Kacy Anderson and Clayton Linthicum hail from rural Saskatchewan and recorded their new album with producer Jeff Tweedy at Wilco's studio in Chicago. And their songs seem older than sheet music, with roots in British folk.
Almost all the material is actually co-written by the young duo, and it's terrific. Anderson sings of heartbreak, cheating, suicide and the wrath of God, and the prairie chanteuse finds beauty amid sadness.
Linthicum has a distinctive style on both the electric and acoustic guitar, bending low strings as a contrast to his cousin's steely high end. Tweedy's touch is evident in arrangements that include bass, drums and plenty of space.
There's room for humor, too, as on the opening verse of "A Lifeboat": "If envy was tequila, and jealousy strong beer, we could throw a party that would last throughout the year."
Other highlights include "Cannery Yard," which benefits from Anderson's fiddle, and the title cut, where her sturdy delivery makes her a convincing sailor. Those tunes help "The Siren's Song" become the front-runner as the year's best album in the Canadian-British-Americana country-folk category.