The Cactus Blossoms Open Strong For St. Nick In Atlanta
On December 4, Nick Lowe brought his 2nd Annual Quality Holiday Revue to one of Atlanta’s finest venues the Variety Playhouse. St. Nick treated an adoring full house to not only an amazing performance backed by surf music champions Los Straitjackets but he also brought along an exceptional opening act in the Cactus Blossoms from St. Paul, Minnesota.
Although they often perform with a full band that includes the pedal steel and fiddle, on this night the Cactus Blossoms were slimmed down to founding members and blood brothers Page Burkum and Jack Torrey. From the first shimmering strums, the Cactus Blossoms captivated the crowd with their exceptional Everly-esque harmonies and low-key guitar twang. Despite the simplified arrangements, the duo managed to create a lot of depth over the course of their set of a dozen or so originals. The pair endeared themselves on this festive evening with their lean tales of old fashion heartbreak and longing. The songs were positively reminiscent of Hank Williams in their economy and emotional depth. The pair looked the part, too: suave and ultra cool without being greasy. It is clear they are pious students of their influences.
Promoting their upcoming release on songwriter Greg Brown’s Red House Records label entitled, “You’re Dreaming” the Cactus Blossoms, who formed in 2010, played a number of standout tunes including “Change Your Ways Or Die”, “A Sad Day To Be You” and the waltz “Adios, Maria.” Despite the stripped down arrangements, many of the compositions felt like they would be at home in a Western swing band’s repertoire. There was also a warm hint of Johnny Horton’s rural cool in the mix. Within this context, it would be easy for a song or two to bog down in mere nostalgia but it never happened. The themes presented in the lyrics were simply too universal. After many of the more charismatic moments of the show, quite a few people in the crowd were seen trying to answer the question, “Who are these guys?” by tapping their phones between songs.
No doubt the Cactus Blossoms knew what they were in for. They supported Nick Lowe last year for many of the U.S. dates on his first holiday tour. As a result, it was clear they knew exactly what would work for this particular audience and they delivered. It was easy to see why they were selected to make multiple appearances at The Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion and to tour with fellow Red House artist Dale Watson: They are rooted in a revered but sometimes forgotten era of American music and they know how to get it over without even a sniff of irony. God bless The Turf Club in St. Paul for providing an artistic home to incubate their beautiful act.
The Cactus Blossoms closed with the title track to their upcoming release and not only managed to warm up the crowd but also win over quite a few new fans many of which, like me, look forward to picking up their next release (which was produced by J.D. McPherson). The Cactus Blossoms are touring with Nick Lowe through December 19 and will be performing at special album release events on February 12 and 13 in St. Paul. Learn more about the Cactus Blossoms at www.thecactusblossoms.com. Check them out and support the art of live Americana music everywhere.