The Cactus Blossoms
4 out of 5 stars
Those whose initial response to the Cactus Blossoms’ sweet sibling harmonies and instantly memorable, stripped down country strumming tunes is, “I liked them better when they were called the Everly Brothers,” are missing the point. The Minneapolis duo of Jack Torrey and Page Burkum (different last names but blood brothers) clearly derive their sound, song structures and even clean cut look from the Everlys, yet they are far from a cookie cutter imitation.
It won’t take more than one spin for these songs—all but two penned by Torrey– with their lovely, pure melodies and sharp wordplay, to get stuck in your brain. While there may not be gems on the order of “Bye Bye Love” or “Cathy’s Clown,” a few come awfully close to capturing the magic of those other brothers’ musical vibe. Production by JD McPherson, who knows his way around a rootsy approach, found a rhythm section to enhance and slightly fatten the sound without losing the vocal and musical essence of what makes the Cactus Blossoms bloom. But most importantly, he keeps the focus on the blended voices and generally stays out of the way.
It’s an honest, unvarnished, completely engaging style that is clearly retro but in no way musty. Take some rockabilly (“No More Crying the Blues,” “Clown Collector”), add some melancholy bluesy swoon (“Powder Blue”), waltz time C&W (“Adios Maria”) and peppy folk-pop (“Stoplight Kisses”) and mix with natural, innocent, fresh faced vocals that feel as if these guys have been singing together their whole lives (which is likely) for just over a half hour of music guaranteed to make your day better. Songs like the floating ballad with shimmering reverbed guitar “If I Can’t Win” might have been written 50 years ago or yesterday. Those entranced by these eleven tracks are advised to search out the Blossoms’ exquisite version of the Beatles’ “This Boy” floating around the web.
Don’t slot these guys into an Everly Brothers pigeonhole because not only is no one else releasing music like this, but the refined songwriting and flawless performances push these tunes into near classic territory. The adjective “timeless” is hardly misplaced when describing the Cactus Blossoms and the most exciting part is to see where they go next.