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Interview: The Cactus Blossoms Create Vintage Country Sounds on ‘You’re Dreaming’

The Cactus Blossoms You're Dreaming album cover
Red House Records

From the first notes of “Stoplight Kisses,” the lead track of the Cactus Blossoms‘ new album, listeners will be hard pressed to remember that this record is a 2016 release (out now). Brothers Page Burkum and Jack Torrey have developed a classic country sound and harmonies reminiscent of the Everly Brothers, not consciously but organically.

Burkum and Torrey began their music careers casually playing around Minneapolis, Minn., with other people. They enjoyed covering Bob Dylan and old folk songs, and when the two began playing together, they slowly grew themselves into a band. Fans of older country, the brothers added steel and fiddle players, and their original, classic-yet-modern material organically began to form.

“We always have a little trouble explaining something that didn’t seem like that intentional of a decision for us,” Burkum tells The Boot of the evolution of the Cactus Blossoms’ sound. “… We both just grabbed onto it.”

For You’re Dreaming, the Cactus Blossoms had the pleasure of working with acclaimed rockabilly singer-songwriter JD McPherson. The band opened for him in Minneapolis and stayed in touch with McPherson — and when he called Burkum and Torrey and said he wanted to produce a project of theirs, they “jumped on the chance.”

The brothers agree that while McPherson gave them creative freedom, his influence is still all over their newest disc: The artist helped re-do older songs, such as “Stoplight Kisses” and “Adios Maria,” suggested arrangements and helped bring the entire 11-track record together. Burkum and Torrey call McPherson “a good, creative musical counterpart.”

Their sound may be classic, but the Cactus Blossoms’ music works in this day and age because the lyrics are timeless: not super-modern (“I’m not singing about fried chicken or gas stations …,” Torrey says wryly), and just open-ended enough.

“The first time I heard Willie Nelson‘s early stuff, it blew me away how serious and how heartbreaking a song could be, but it’s also got a wink and a smile to it,” Torrey recalls. “I’d never heard that complexity put into a song and have it come out sounding so simple, in a way.

“… I’m just trying to write songs and express myself and have fun with words and melodies, and for some reason, it just kind of hovered in that realm,” Torrey explains. “I hope that it feels fresh and not like some — it’s not intended to be a re-enactment of anything.”

The Cactus Blossoms have a handful of concerts currently scheduled in the Midwest and Northeast in January and February. They’re especially excited for two shows in mid-February in New York City, and they’ve enjoyed adding new songs (they specifically call out “Mississippi”) to their setlists.

You’re Dreaming is available now, on CD and vinyl via Red House Records’ official website, and digitally via iTunes. More information on the Cactus Blossoms, including upcoming tour dates, is available on the band’s website.

Listen to the Cactus Blossoms, “You’re Dreaming”:

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