The Cactus Blossoms
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
With Easy Way, the harmonizing brothers of the Cactus Blossoms return for round two, following their knockout 2016 debut You’re Dreaming. This time, brothers Jack Torrey and Page Burkum enlist another family member, Tyler Burkum, who adds guitar and bass (but oddly no vocals) to the mix. Page and Jack also take the production reigns (JD McPherson handled that on the first release), to make this a more personal statement.
Push play and the chords of an acoustic guitar immediately appear, followed closely by the tight, sugary harmony vocals easily mistaken for the Everly Brothers. And while the slightly retro folk/pop tunes are just as melodically catchy as on the duo’s previous release, these lyrics are darker and occasionally more socially conscious. The protagonist in “I’m Calling You” seems like a stalker who phones someone every hour from 2 a.m. on (“It’s been ringing over and over, it’s been ringing since two / Three o’clock in the morning, and I’m calling you”). And the lyrics of “See it Through” repeat 12 times as the singers are walking after midnight repeating, “I know that you really want to hang around…I know that you really want to see it through,” as a reverbed guitar and a lovely lilting melody set the melancholy mood.
Black Keys frontman Dan Auerbach gets co-writing credits on a few tracks, one of which (“Got A Lotta Love To Give”) has the duo reprise the tune’s title sentiments no fewer than 18 times. The album’s title track boasts the lines “Love’s an easy way / What else can I say,” which gets sung four times, along with a spacey folk approach that includes a moaning, subtle sax. The twosome gets socio-political on “Downtown” as they criticize the minimum wage (“Try getting by on minimum wage, I dare you / American slaves in the modern age, it should scare you”) with increased edge and aggression. A chiming, Byrds-styled guitar break references one of the group’s other influences.
The honeyed innocence of their singing — also reminiscent of early Simon & Garfunkel and Rick Nelson — makes even the darkest sentiments like “Give me back my life, what is it anyway?” sound like whispered sweet nothings. Their blended voices are so intricately intertwined that listening to this short, 35-minute set feels like drifting into a dream you never want to wake from.
When they shift into full-on ’60s slow dance mode, as on the gorgeous closing ballad “Blue as the Ocean,” the Blossoms’ similarities to the Everlys are so striking it seems this must be an obscure B-side from those siblings. But like the other nine selections, it’s an original.
Even though the close-knit harmonies and understated production are joyfully reminiscent of those other brothers from an earlier time, no one currently creates charming vocal folk-pop as pleasing and striking as the Cactus Blossoms.