Oh me, oh my. After a day spent in tech-support hell, the third long player from the Minneapolis duo has turned out to be just what the doctor ordered. The Cactus Blossoms, aka brothers Jack Torrey and Page Burkum, are sure to turn the ears of any- and everyone who digs the sonic revelations found in the sounds of the Louvin Brothers, Everly Brothers, Byrds, Flying Burrito Brothers and Jayhawks, among other acts that lean heavy on harmonies.
It’s not the best album I’ve heard thus far this year, but it’s a damn fine outing all the same, a set of songs I’ve had on repeat off-and-on since its release last week. Like the Louvins and Everlys (and, on the distaff—and more modern—side of things, First Aid Kit and the Staves), there’s a genetic factor at play when the brothers mesh their vocals into one. Call it a cloak of comfort or a soothing hue, I don’t know, but either/or the result is greater than the sum of its part. That’s not to a knock on the vocal abilities of either brother, I hasten to add; each possesses a grainy quality that offers glimpses into their oft-wounded souls.
Of the album itself: The 11 mid-tempo tunes glide into the next as if one long track separated by seconds of silence on nine occasions, while echoes of long-ago linger throughout. “I Could Almost Cry,” for instance, conjures Gram Parsons and the Flying Burrito Brothers.
As evidenced by that song, though the focus is primarily on the expected tropes of love, heartache and heartbreak, other topics come into play, too. Along those lines, the opener, “Hey Baby,” is an ode to hope itself; “Is It Over” questions aging in the music biz; “Ballad of the Unknown” spotlights the plight of the homeless, and “Not the Only One” celebrates nights out. But “One Day” vows “you’re gonna miss/miss me when I’m gone; “Runaway” ruminates about giving one’s self to someone whose interest was only fleeting; “Love Tomorrow” explores life as “a glass half full and half empty”; “Lonely Heart” lives up to its title; and “If I Saw You” wonders aloud about someone from the past.
Another highlight is “Everybody,” a duet with Jenny Lewis in which they assert, “Everybody’s tryin’ to do whats right.” It’s a gorgeous songs that, to my ears, answers the question of how the Flying Burrito Brothers’ cover of the Bee Gees’ “To Love Somebody” would have sounded if Emmylou Harris had been in studio to trade verses with Gram Parsons.
The track list: