Shelby Lynne and Allison Moorer
Album: “Not Dark Yet” (Silver Cross/Thirty Tigers)
It’s been said that something mystical distinguishes the harmonies forged by siblings from those of ordinary mortals, and nothing Shelby Lynne and Allison Moorer have sung together would prove otherwise.
Both critically acclaimed singer-songwriters in their own right, the two sisters with Alabama roots have been blending their voices to angelic effect for as long as they can remember. They just haven’t put out an album together.
Their new release, “Not Dark Yet,” is a fine collection of carefully curated songs, each chosen to celebrate the seamless melding of two beautiful voices. Produced by Teddy Thompson, the album showcases the talent of sisters who figured out long ago how to complement each other musically.
The song choices, pitch-perfect for the most part, range from the title cut, Bob Dylan’s somber and understated reflection on aging, to an elegant version of Nick Cave’s “Into My Arms.” The only unfortunate choice is a leaden cover of Nirvana’s “Lithium,” which feels conspicuously misplaced.
Lynne and Moorer’s musical careers emerged from tragedy. Their father shot and killed their mother and then himself when they were teenagers. That’s not something the sisters dwell on publicly, and they won’t let it dominate their legacy.
But their tragic past helps explain the power of their voices in harmony. There’s an unspoken message of trust, a bond that transcends the songs themselves and hints at the deeper things that bind them together.
—Scott Stroud, Associated Press
Kacy & Clayton
Album: “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.
—Steven Wine, Associated Press