Album Review – The Cactus Blossoms’ ‘You’re Dreaming’

the-cactus-blossoms-youre-dreaming-album-cover1

This post was written by a past guest contributor of Country Perspective. 

Often times in music, we tend to focus too much on the next big thing. Who’s advancing the sounds of yesterday? Who’s next in line to take over the musical throne? It’s certainly not a bad thing to keep track of. After all, music does have to evolve. Sometimes however, it’s best to reflect back on the history of the music that shaped the music today, as well as stay true to your roots, and that’s exactly what the brother duo The Cactus Blossoms do on their debut album You’re Dreaming.

Originally from Minneapolis, Minnesota and signed to Red House Records, The Cactus Blossoms is made up of Jack Torrey and Page Burkum, two brothers who formed a duo in 2010. They got their start by playing around various venues in Minneapolis covering songs from some of their biggest influences such as The Everly Brothers, Johnny Cash, and Bob Dylan. In 2013, they released a live album titled, Live At The Turf Club which garnered attention for the duo, especially for their old school approach in sound. Eventually, the brothers met up with rockabilly artist, JD McPherson who produced their newest album, You’re Dreaming. Their throwback sound stems not from the desire to “shun” new sounds, but rather because making throwback sounding music is just what the brothers love to do. As Jack and Page state, “we weren’t born in the wrong era. We just got into some music from a different era and found a way to make it our own.” After listening to You’re Dreaming, you better believe that statement is true as can be.

The album begins with “Stoplight Kisses” and right away The Everly Brothers influence is apparent. The song sounds exactly like something out of the 50’s and 60’s, and is the first of many, many times we hear the heavenly harmonies between Jack and Page. Next up is the title track. In this song, a man thinks some things to himself as he watches his lady sleep. He thinks about how he’s the luckiest man in the world to have a woman like her. He also thinks about a former lover of hers and is bothered and jealous at the fact that there’s a chance he may come back and steal her away. It often clouds his thoughts whenever he thinks of his lady. There’s a bit of mystery to this track that gives it an alluring quality (such as just how big of a role this other man plays). There’s a mellow, laid-back vibe apparent on this track that suits the brothers vocals exceptionally well, and get ready, because I’ll be using the phrase “mellow vibe” a lot for this album. This song is also rooted much more in the vein of traditional country than the pop sound of “Stoplight Kisses.” The classic country sound continues on in “Queen Of Them All”, which is a nice simple love song that is once again accentuated by the brothers delicious harmonies and mellow vocal tones. The duo switches up the sound with the rockabilly number, “Clown Collector.” This is just a really fun song about a woman who possesses the ability to have men wrapped around her finger, pleasing her every demand. My favorite line from this song is,

 “Listen up man, she’s giving a lecture, she’s a clown collector”

It’s not going to punch you in the gut or anything, but I still found it quite humorous. The soothing sound of drums leads us into “Mississippi.” Once again, there’s a very mellow vibe to this track, I’d even go as far as to say sort of “beachy” sounding (or at least beach adjacent). The theme of this song is a little vague, centering around a man who goes down to Mississippi in search of something, but of what we don’t exactly know. There’s talk of an old lover, but when he talks about seeing an angel, I’m led to believe that he’s searching for something internal, like possibly his soul. It’s a very intriguing track, and with its thematic content, it sort of reminds me of Charlie Robison’s “El Cerrito Place.” “Powder Blue” is next, which lyrically is probably the weakest of the bunch, but it’s still an effective, simple love song that has a great throwback bluesy sound to it. As with every song on this album, the vocals here are soothing and pleasing to the ears.

The best songs on the album follow. “Change Your Ways Or Die” begins with a somewhat ominous, sinister guitar lead that really sets up the whole atmosphere of the song. It also has a driving beat, which I would compare to that of a train chugging along. While the other songs on this album draw influences from classic country, rockabilly and pop, “Change Your Ways Or Die” is essentially folksy in its nature. The song is centered around a man who lives his life on the run. He warns the listener that when you live like him, you have to change your ways, meaning to not stay in one place too long, or else you’ll die. It’s a really cool and very well written lyrical song that you have to hear for yourself to enjoy. “If I Can’t Win” is very reverb-heavy, and also goes back to the mellow vibe that at this point, seems to be the duo’s bread and butter. It’s a little bit country and a little bit bluesy. It’s a seemingly introspective ballad that focuses around a man who deals with the aftermath of a lover leaving him, which makes him act forlorn, often times talking to himself in an effort to cope with his new life. The emotional delivery here is superb and for that this might be the best “mellow” track here.

“No More Crying The Blues” is a cover of an Alton & Jimmy tune. This rockabilly tune is another song that is just flat-out awesome to listen to. In this song, we have a man who has finally cried out all the tears that he shed from a previous relationship. The energetic tone and delivery with which the brothers convey the song goes hand in hand with the theme of being happy again. “Adios Maria” finds the duo doing a waltz style number. The chorus has a strong melody to it that once again works for the mellow tone. The album closes with “Traveler’s Paradise.” It’s a fitting end to the album, as the man in the song leaves his town behind in search of a paradise, a better life. As he proclaims when he leaves, “he’s gone, but not forgotten.” Really, that’s how it is with the album too. It’s over, but with all of the strong songs on this album you surely won’t forget it.

A while back Country Perspective reviewed another brother duo, The Malpass Brothers. One thing that Josh noted about the duo was that they had a very retro, old-school sounding country sound. Really, that’s the same thing I think of when I hear The Cactus Blossoms, except this duo isn’t tied down to strict hardcore traditional country music, which should be evident considering the album was produced by an Americana artist. With songs that draw from country, pop, rockabilly and even a little bit of folk and blues, the brothers manage to tie all of those influences into one cohesive package with You’re Dreaming. With this album, you’ll find yourself more hooked more by the vocals and the sound than anything else, as this album features some of the best harmonies you’ll hear in all of music this year. I realize that it’s only January, but after hearing the duo I know that I won’t have to retract that statement. If I had to nitpick with this album, I would say that the duo relies on the mellow vibe a little TOO much, which makes for easy listening sure, but also can cause attention to scatter elsewhere at times. All that aside however, You’re Dreaming is an album that will make you a reminisce on a time that you were most likely not even around for, making You’re Dreaming one of the albums you have to hear this year.

 Grade: 8/10

The Hodgepodge: Final of the Year, Feature Ideas & Open Thread

The holiday season is getting ready to go into full swing with Thanksgiving next week. Not to mention, Derek and myself are going to start working on our year-end award lists and nominations. So this will be the final Hodgepodge of 2015.

It’s hard to believe how fast a year can go by and how much can happen when you look back at it all. Country Perspective has grown even bigger and has reached more readers than I ever imagined, so I thank you all for your support and kind words. This is what keeps us motivated to continue to write and bring you exciting content. Speaking of that I’ve been contemplating new features to introduce to the blog in 2016. I want to expand the variety on here and I’ve already got a couple of ideas I’m seriously considering. But I would love to hear from you too. What is something you would like to see? I would love some feedback.

By the way a new writer is already set to join us next year. But you’ll have to wait until January to find out…

We plan on reviewing a few more albums and singles in the next couple of weeks. Let us know what you would love to see covered most that we have not yet. No, we will not review the Old Dominion album. Please suggest good music.

You can basically treat this Hodgepodge as an open thread to discuss whatever you want to discuss in country and Americana right now. Also you can throw out some questions for Derek and myself that we will do our best to answer. You guys know how these Q&A Hodgepodges work. Just don’t ask us something impossible or go over five questions (Each reader can ask up to five questions). Again thank you for reading the Hodgepodge in 2015 and we look forward to bringing it back again in 2016.

Upcoming/Recent Country & Americana Releases 

  • The last major album release of the year appears to be the debut album of Cam on December 11. It’s titled Untamed and is highly likely to be the final review of the year.
  • Alan Jackson released a three-CD box set called Genuine: The Alan Jackson Story. It features his biggest hits and a few unreleased songs. It’s exclusively available through Walmart and in my opinion is a great Christmas gift for any country fan.
  • Shovels & Rope just came out with a surprise of their own. Through Dualtone Music, they’re releasing a collaborative project on November 20 titled Busted Jukebox Volume 1. NPR announced it and debuted the music, which you can stream here. It’s covers of some of their favorite songs and they explain in the NPR piece the meaning of each song for them and how they came about. The guest artists who join them are very talented and include the likes of Lucius, Shakey Graves, The Milk Carton Kids and JD McPherson. I definitely suggest giving it a listen.
  • Next Friday is Black Friday and that means there will be some great Record Store Black Friday Day releases. For those that collect vinyl there are some country and Americana releases that will catch your eye. Some of the ones that stood out to me (click on each for more info):

Great Music Currently at Country Radio

The very best of country radio right here in a nice playlist. In order for a song to be added to the list, it must currently be in the top 60 of the Billboard Country Airplay chart, so this will be updated weekly.

Throwback Thursday Song

Keith Whitley – “When You Say Nothing At All” – One of the artists we can thank for bringing back traditional country in the late 80s and someone who died way too young, Keith Whitley is an artist everyone should appreciate. I plan to dig into his catalog more over the holidays.

Non-Country Suggestion of the Week

Eagles of Death Metal – This band has been in the news lately for all of the wrong reasons. They were the band playing on the stage at the Le Bataclan in Paris when terrorists attacked it last week and left hundreds dead and injured. The band was able to escape unharmed, but their merchandise manager and others they knew did not. Right now they are obviously recovering from this traumatic event. I recently checked their music out and they are a very talented group. The origin of how they formed and came together is quite interesting. Obviously it’s not about the music right now with them, but some day again it will. And it should be, as they make great music and I recommend giving it a listen.

Tweet of the Week

Yeah I don’t have anything else to add. This song will be a top contender for our Worst Song of the Year award.

iTunes Review That Rocks

Old Dominion Sucks

This was left under the new Old Dominion album. See why I’m not reviewing this? Those other great artists got reviewed though and you’re much better off listening to their albums than anything Old Dominion has ever touched.

Thanks for reading and be sure to weigh in below! 

The Americana Airplay Chart Rundown [August 3]

Jason Isbell Something More Than Free

This is The Americana Airplay Chart Rundown. Every week I’ll post the top 40 from the Americana Airplay chart, which is obtained from AmericanaRadio.org. From the site: “The Americana Airplay chart represents the reported play of terrestrial radio stations, nationally syndicated radio shows, satellite radio and internet stations who have agreed to submit weekly spin counts. For more information please visit www.americanamusic.org.”

The goal of this feature is to track and monitor the current most popular music in the Americana realm, as I believe it’s starting to take on a bigger importance in the world of music, especially concerning the current state of country music. In addition it will bring some new names to the site that haven’t been covered here before and could lead to more Americana coverage. It’s also a place to discuss anything going on in the Americana genre at this moment. Be sure to weigh in on the chart in the comments below.

  1. Jason Isbell – Something More Than Free (Grade: 10/10)
  2. Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell – The Traveling Kind
  3. Kacey Musgraves – Pageant Material (Grade: 9/10)
  4. Richard Thompson – Still
  5. Willie Nelson & Merle Haggard – Django and Jimmie (Grade: 9/10)
  6. Chris Stapleton – Traveller (Grade: 10/10)
  7. Ray Wylie Hubbard – The Ruffian’s Misfortune 
  8. Sonny Landreth – Bound By The Blues 
  9. Watkins Family Hour – Watkins Family Hour
  10. Dale Watson – Call Me Insane (Grade: 8.5/10)
  11. Larry Campbell & Teresa Williams – Larry Campbell & Teresa Williams
  12. Kasey Chambers – Bittersweet
  13. Amy Helm – Didn’t It Rain
  14. Alabama Shakes – Sound & Color
  15. Warren Hayes (feat. Railroad Earth) – Ashes & Dust
  16. Rhett Miller – The Traveler
  17. Dwight Yoakam – Second Hand Heart (Grade: 10/10)
  18. Uncle Lucius – The Light
  19. Eilen Jewell – Sundown Over Ghost Town
  20. Sam Outlaw – Angeleno (Grade: 10/10)
  21. The Deslondes – The Deslondes (Grade: 8.5/10)
  22. Jimmy LaFave – The Night Tribe
  23. Milk Carton Kids – Monterey 
  24. Will Hoge – Small Town Dreams (Grade: 9/10)
  25. Dar Williams – Emerald 
  26. Honey Honey – 3
  27. The Mike & Ruthy Band – Bright As You Can
  28. John Moreland – High On Tulsa Heat (Grade: 9/10)
  29. Whitey Morgan & The 78s – Sonic Ranch (Grade: 10/10)
  30. Samantha Crain – Under Branch & Thorn & Tree
  31. Ashley Monroe – The Blade (Grade: 7/10)
  32. Yonder Mountain String Band – Black Sheep
  33. Calexico – Edge of the Sun
  34. Daniel Romano – If I’ve Only One Time Askin’
  35. Jackie Greene – Back To Birth
  36. Steeldrivers – The Muscle Shoals Sessions
  37. JD McPherson – Let The Good Times Roll
  38. Leon Bridges – Coming Home
  39. Kentucky Headhunters – Meet Me In Blues Land 
  40. Tony Furtado – The Bell

The Americana Airplay Chart Rundown [July 27]

Jason Isbell Something More Than Free

Welcome to a new feature to the site! This is The Americana Airplay Chart Rundown. Every week I’ll post the top 40 from the Americana Airplay chart, which is obtained from AmericanaRadio.org. From the site: “The Americana Airplay chart represents the reported play of terrestrial radio stations, nationally syndicated radio shows, satellite radio and internet stations who have agreed to submit weekly spin counts. For more information please visit www.americanamusic.org.”

The goal of this feature is to track and monitor the current most popular music in the Americana realm, as I believe it’s starting to take on a bigger importance in the world of music, especially concerning the current state of country music. In addition it will bring some new names to the site that haven’t been covered here before and could lead to more Americana coverage. It’s also a place to discuss anything going on in the Americana genre at this moment. I hope you guys enjoy this new feature and be sure to weigh in about it in the comments below.

  1. Jason Isbell – Something More Than Free (Grade: 10/10)
  2. Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell – The Traveling Kind
  3. Richard Thompson – Still
  4. Willie Nelson & Merle Haggard – Django and Jimmie (Grade: 9/10)
  5. Kacey Musgraves – Pageant Material (Grade: 9/10)
  6. Chris Stapleton – Traveller (Grade: 10/10)
  7. Dale Watson – Call Me Insane (Grade: 8.5/10)
  8. Ray Wylie Hubbard – The Ruffian’s Misfortune 
  9. Sonny Landreth – Bound By The Blues 
  10. Larry Campbell & Teresa Williams – Larry Campbell & Teresa Williams
  11. Rhett Miller – The Traveler
  12. Alabama Shakes – Sound & Color
  13. Amy Helm – Didn’t It Rain
  14. Watkins Family Hour – Watkins Family Hour
  15. Kasey Chambers – Bittersweet
  16. Dwight Yoakam – Second Hand Heart (Grade: 10/10)
  17. Eilen Jewell – Sundown Over Ghost Town
  18. Uncle Lucius – The Light
  19. Sam Outlaw – Angeleno (Grade: 10/10)
  20. Dar Williams – Emerald 
  21. Will Hoge – Small Town Dreams (Grade: 9/10)
  22. Jimmy LaFave – The Night Tribe
  23. Milk Carton Kids – Monterey 
  24. The Deslondes – The Deslondes (Grade: 8.5/10)
  25. Warren Hayes (feat. Railroad Earth) – Ashes & Dust
  26. The Mike & Ruthy Band – Bright As You Can
  27. Calexico – Edge of the Sun
  28. JD McPherson – Let The Good Times Roll
  29. John Moreland – High On Tulsa Heat (Grade: 9/10)
  30. Yonder Mountain String Band – Black Sheep
  31. Whitey Morgan & The 78s – Sonic Ranch (Grade: 10/10)
  32. Samantha Crain – Under Branch & Thorn & Tree
  33. Honey Honey – 3
  34. Shelby Lynne – I Can’t Imagine
  35. Brandi Carlile – The Firewatcher’s Daughter (Grade: 9.5/10)
  36. Kentucky Headhunters – Meet Me In Blues Land 
  37. Steeldrivers – The Muscle Shoals Sessions
  38. Sugarcane Jane – Dirt Road’s End
  39. Della Mae – Della Mae
  40. The Grahams – Glory Bound