These brothers can really sing, and write and play high-quality, classic, lonesome-country songs.
Minneapolis duo The Cactus Blossoms have announced the release of their new album, ‘One Day’. Brothers Page Burkum and Jack Torrey (Torrey is a stage name from a previous incarnation), have already established themselves as a popular part of the Twin Cities music scene. Their 2016 alum, ‘You’re Dreaming’, was produced by JD McPherson and David Lynch even featured them in the recent return of Twin Peaks.
On first listen, you could be mistaken for wondering if this is some kind of Everly Brothers tribute thing. The voices and harmonies are that good, and the playing is top drawer. Tonally, the album is not a million miles from the wonderful recent Plant/Krauss collaboration but this somehow feels more genuine, more heartfelt. Like, this is what they do and it’s not just a stylistic departure from the norm for these talented brothers.
Emerging from lockdown with a batch of new songs, the brothers called on long-time collaborator/engineer Alex Hall, who brought his mobile rig up from Chicago so they could cut the album quick and dirty in Burkum’s basement. They kept their circle tight for the sessions, working with their core touring band—which included both their older brother and their cousin—to capture the songs with a feel as close to their live show as possible.
“From the start, we knew we wanted to keep the instrumentation minimal and consistent across the whole album and embrace the dryness that came with recording in Page’s basement,” says Torrey. “We wanted it to sound raw.” Maybe there’s a rawness to the recordings that they can hear, but the overall sound is smooth like honey, and the performances are nuanced and pitch-perfect throughout.
The Cactus Blossoms wear their influences proudly on their sleeves. They don’t regard what they do as being contrived, it’s just what they want to do, it’s the product of the music they still love to listen to and love to play – classic country vibes, shades of old school crooner pop, call it what you will. The important thing to know is that it’s not a gimmick. They’re sincere and committed and they play their music out of love… because it really is their music. Twin Cities PBS has a superb half-hour special on them from last year called, ‘The Lowertown Line’, where they talk about where they come from as writers and performers, what they’re aiming to do and what drives them forward. There’s also an excellent KEXP special from 2019 on YouTube that’s worth having a look at too. It’s all fine stuff, but go listen to the new album
Sure, maybe you won’t fall for their beautiful harmonies, or their brilliant musicianship and sophisticated song-writing chops, or the tasteful and restrained instrumentation and playing, or even their shy, down-to-earth charm, but just don’t write it off as faux, old-fashioned country. They are much, much better than that, and there’s far more to them than that. They definitely deserve a listen.
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