Published Oct 01, 2019This is the fifth album in nine years from the still-young Saskatchewan folk duo, and it continues their sustained level of excellence. The pair's career was boosted when fan Jeff Tweedy took the production chair for 2017's The Siren's Song, and he resumes that role here. The recording was done mostly live off the floor, with a restrained but effective rhythm section embellishing a sound built around the pure and unaffected voice of Kacy (Anderson) and the multi-instrumental talent of Clayton (Linthicum).
The cousins share songwriting duties, and Linthicum occasionally takes the lead vocal, adding to the variety. Their style has gradually shifted from being heavily influenced by English folk to more Americana-meets-folk-rock, though "Intervention" here evokes Pentangle.
Lyrically, the pair eschew personal introspection in favour of creating vivid characters and stories. Opening track "The Forty-Ninth Parallel" is a lament on poverty ("We fell short on rent, we fell short on good times"), while "Mom and Dad's Waltz # 2" is a heart-rending tale of "a welfare mom and a farewell dad" and a baby with the odds stacked against them. In the mournful "Spare Me Over One More Year," "death comes every evening, knocking at my door."
Thankfully, the darker material is usually leavened by brighter musical tones, with Clayton's resonant guitar and steel work consistently pleasing the ear. Long may this terrific twosome keep carrying on. (New West)