On the cover of Easy Way – the second album from Minneapolis duo The Cactus Blossoms – blood brothers Page Burkum and Jack Torrey can be seen walking in opposite directions. Take a peek under the record’s hood, though, and you find that the siblings are not only very much together; they are also firing on all cylinders.
The follow up to You’re Dreaming builds upon the Everly Brothers’ harmony-drenched template of The Cactus Blossoms’ 2016 debut and diversifies and develops that often plangent sound by incorporating the additional influences of fellow Americans The Jayhawks, Roy Orbison, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, and by association, The Traveling Wilburys.
Easy Way had much of its genesis in Nashville after The Cactus Blossoms came off the road and were invited to the home of country music by Dan Auerbach, guitarist and vocalist for The Black Keys. The three men got together with L. Russell Brown (best known for co-writing ‘Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree’ and ‘Knock Three Times’, those 1970’s smash hits for Tony Orlando and Dawn) and had plenty of fun knocking out some of the songs that would eventually appear on the new record.
Opening track ‘Desperado’ captures that unique sibling sound where one voice merges inexorably into the other and it becomes quite impossible to distinguish between the two. For extra gravitas, the brothers also include some super-twangy Duane Eddy-style guitar in what is a perfect introduction to Easy Way.
A couple of tracks later The Cactus Blossoms head further on down that rootsy rock’n’roll route with the album’s lead single ‘Please Don’t Call Me Crazy’, a song replete with contemporary reference points and the brothers’ customary casual charm. Described by Jack Torrey as “a real love-on-the rocks story”, the second song to be shared from Easy Way before its release, ‘Got A Lotta Love’ is a gorgeous romantic ballad co-written with Dan Auerbach.
On Easy Way there is undoubtedly a discernible shift towards a more roots-based, wide-open sound, but The Cactus Blossoms continue to be at their very best when they breathe in that rarefied air of tragi-pop once so effortlessly exhaled by The Big O and The Everly Brothers. The album’s stand-out songs are ‘Boomerang’ and the beautiful closer ‘Blue As The Ocean’, both of which possess that timeless songwriting quality where melody, melancholy and nostalgia all meet.
Easy Way marks an assured step forward for The Cactus Blossoms. The new record does rely upon the enduring, ageless foundations of its predecessor by once more seeking out some of those more familiar creative reference points. But this time round Page Burkum and Jack Torrey plot a far wider range of musical coordinates and it is through this greater scope and the continuing freshness and vitality of their arrangements that the brothers manage to effectively relocate what is an undeniably vintage sound into something they can rightly call their own in the here and now.
Easy Way is released on 1st March 2019 through Walkie Talkie Records