Album reviews: Paul Kelly, "Life is Fine;" Kacy & Clayton: "The Siren's Song"
"The Siren's Song"
Release date: Aug. 18
Review: 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.
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.
"Life is Fine"
Release date: Aug. 11
Genre: Pop, rock
Review: Paul Kelly, Australia's national treasure, has gone eclectic in recent releases, unless you consider setting Shakespearian sonnets to music mainstream.
"Life is Fine" returns to familiar territory: sturdy, pop-rock songs from a writer who's a master of economy and expressiveness. Lovely lines abound: "You're autumn trees undressing in the month of May," he sings, a reminder that this came from the Southern Hemisphere. Kelly updates a Roy Orbison song and sets a Langston Hughes poem to music in the title cut.
Vika and Linda Bull shine as singers, and not just backups — Kelly generously gives each a lead in one song (although maybe not too generous, since Vika's assignment, "My Man's Got a Cold," is the album's one true clunker).
The joyous and playful love songs, "Firewood and Candles" and "Josephina," shine particularly bright.
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