If you’re into traditional country music duets, you might want to check out Brennen Leigh and Noel McKay’s new CD, “Before the World was Made.”
Austin-based McKay caught the attention of Guy Clark a few years back when he was playing with the McKay Brothers band.
“Noel and Guy have known each other a long time,” explained Leigh during a phone call from their home in Austin. “I know Guy from Noel. He’s been a great friend to us.”
Clark is also a fan of Leigh’s guitar skills. She shared a bill with the legendary Clark and his friend Townes Van Zandt back in 1993.
“Guy and Townes were the headliners,” she noted. “I played my set. Guy came back stage and showed interest in my songs.”
For Leigh, it was a high point.
“It was a great experience,” she said. “When somebody that has that much greatness in their catalogue of songs comes along and shows an interest in you, you can’t help but compare your own material to that. The bar is set very high by Guy Clark.”
Leigh grew up in Minnesota playing in a family band. Lee Ann Womack, Sunny Sweeney have covered her tunes. Her lyrics and her voice are definitely country. In fact, she sounds a lot like a young Sissy Spacek on several cuts on the new record.
The duo has been playing together for a few years. They made a five-song EP to sell at shows. They saved the money to make the new album.
McKay has spent a lot of time in Nashville and enjoys being in the company of “great, incredible writers there.”
When deciding what songs to use for the new project, the couple didn’t have to look any further than their own work.
“Some of these are songs that Noel had from a long time ago that we reconstructed,” Leigh said in a press release. “And, some we wrote together. Writing duets is just almost like writing from one point of view and splitting it and making it make sense.”
McKay appreciates Leigh’s musicality.
“Brennen’s really great at melodies,” he said in the press release. “She’s always kicking around a melody around the house and it’s great and she’ll attach it to a lyric idea that’s equally great. She writes characters in her songs like a novelist.”
Songs of note on this record include “Let’s Don’t Get Married,” “The Only Other Person in the Room,” “Be My Ball and Chain” and the iconic “Let’s Go to Lubbock on Vacation.” The whimsy and wit the two artists bring to the table belie their songs’ serious subjects in a light-hearted way.
On first pass, you’ll think “These are cute songs,” but after a times, you’ll realize the lyrics are not as fluffy as they seem.
The couple recently returned from a trip to Europe where they were struck by their warm reception.
“They’re really into songs over there,” Leigh noted. “This was our first time in the UK. I guess they had seen some of our songs on YouTube because they were singing along. It was pretty special.”
Her favorite gig came at The Norman Knight in Whichford.
“We weren’t sure how we were going to be received,” she said.
“It was this tiny room with a small PA [sound] system. It was full of people. They were singing along with the choruses. I’m not one to cry or get emotional during my own set, but I thought I was going to lose it. It was beautiful.”
For more information about Brennen Leigh and Noel McKay, visit www.brennenleighandnoelmckay.com
The couple will be performing at Poor David’s Pub in Dallas on Nov. 9. For more information, visit www.poordavidspub.com
To watch a video of “Let’s Go to Lubbock on Vacation,” visit http://youtu.be/6Qn3LJQy2-Q