Artist You Should Know: The Cactus Blossoms
Brothers and singer/songwriters Jack Torrey and Page Burkum have become The Cactus Blossoms over time; they continue to experiment in front of live audiences that has grown and generated positive feedback.
The brothers got their start and notoriety from their unique, weekly performances at a St. Paul, Minnesota bar. The duo was given a residency at the Turf Club in St. Paul, where they assembled a band and practiced in public every week. Torrey and Burkum would sing well-known and unpopular songs from the 50s, putting their own spin on them. These two soulful artists appear and sound like clean-cut singer songwriters from the 50s and 60s, but with a fresh and modern tang to their sound.
Before the brothers went solo to work on their latest release, they were working with a talented back band for a while. Some of the band included Original Harmony Ridge Creekdippers fiddler Razz Russell and Gear Daddies guitarist Randy Broughten. Though the band had great chemistry, the Burkum brothers decided to separate themselves due to touring picking up in 2014, and another opportune door opening to work with drummer Chris Hepola, bassist Andy Carroll and electric guitarist/older brother Tyler Burkum.
Torrey and Burkum wanted to take their sound in many directions, and consistently landed on a more southern-rock style with their only LP, "Still Dreaming" released in 2016. The record was co-produced by JD McPherson. The talented brothers had opened for JD at a show in their hometown of Minneapolis months prior in 2014, and as recalled on their website, “…Never could have imagined that within a year we would be collaborating on a new album and criss-crossing America on tour with his band.”
The producer and artist helped cultivate what would become The Cactus Blossoms' sound by using his own expertise and recruiting a gifted rhythm section. JD helped to engage engineer and drummer Alex Hall, bassist Beau Sample and pedal steel guitarist Joel Paterson. McPherson, Torrey and Burkum were in agreement on maintaining that live music atmosphere, and so that is how they would sing and record these songs on "You’re Dreaming," worked on for about a year and a half.
The record opens with a sweet, simple and upbeat melody in "Stoplight Kisses." You’ll instantly notice Torrey and Burkum's chemistry and easy harmonies. This bright track is followed by the lovely "You’re Dreaming." The Cactus Blossoms' southern, soulful and folky vocals really shine in the record title track. "I'm painting my jealousy/My hands are shaking/My brush is slipping.” Not to mention their strong ability to write such simple yet poetic lyrics.
"Queen of Them All," is a romantic lullaby about love with beaming guitar licks. “You're a bright shining star/When I look at you from afar there's only fire and I can't help but stare.” Torrey wrote this song about his wife, Sarah Jean, confessing his love for her early in their relationship. A similar bluesy, folk love-song style is achieved in the track "Powder Blue." The song sounds exactly the same – if not better –live. Every member of the band adds an essential element to create this elegant tune. "Powder Blue" is characterized by the swift gentle snare drum and sonic spark between the three brothers on three guitars.
The slow, focused sound on the guitar and rhythm section flows from track to track quite gracefully. "Mississippi" comes in peaceful, lovely waves and takes you to a place of dreamy imagery. “M-I-S-S-I-S-S-I-P-P-I watched the sun yellow and brown/Sing songs in every town.” Though the track seems somewhat upbeat, it’s about a man jumping into the Mississippi River to end his life. An instrumental finger-picking solo concludes the track, and might just be the best part of the entire song.
"Change Your Ways or Die," takes the cake for most eccentric song on "You’re Dreaming." An eerie tune unfolds and we get a nice, intriguing break from the many slowed, romantic love songs on the 2016 record. Similarly, the quick and upbeat "No More Crying the Blues," will have you unnoticeably shaking your head back and forth. This track comes in hot with the bass guitar and takes on a Beach Boys vibe with an effortlessly classic vocal.
Because they are brothers, they both have incredibly similar tone, timing, emotion and intent in their voices. You can feel the heaviness in "If I Can’t Win." The brothers’ harmonies are particularly bluesy with sound southern inflection. You can feel the desperation in their lyrics and voices.
The album closes with "Traveler’s Paradise," a pleasantly settling song with relatable goodbye-lyrics: "Goodbye, sure is good to know ya/I’m so thankful for ya/That's how I’ll always feel.” You can see the siblings' chemistry and emotional performances live in concert, as they will continue touring throughout the U.S.