On Friday, October 21 country artist The Cactus Blossoms joined The Institute of Production and Recording for the first DIY-360 of the new quarter. Beginning with a song that resembled old country blues, members Page Burkum (guitar/vocals), Jack Torrey (guitar/vocals), Mike “Razz” Russell (fiddle), Liz Draper (upright bass) and Randy Broughten (steel guitar/dobro) shared their story.
The band’s front men, Burkum and Torrey, are brothers, so it’s no surprise to see the two playing music together. But it was surprising to find out that they’ve only been playing together for about a year and a half.
“Six years ago I didn’t even know how to sing and play at the same time,” admitted Torrey who went on to say, “Music was always something we both enjoyed so when we decided to start playing and writing together, we wanted to bring in quality musicians who shared the same passion. That’s where Razz and Broughten [who have been playing together since the 80s], and Draper [who is also in the group Black Blondie] came in.”
Since The Cactus Blossoms play what some might consider an “old school” style of country music, recording authenticity could potentially be an issue. Some bands doing what they do might consider recording to tape the only way of tracking. To the Cactus Blossoms, Pro Tools is no big deal. The majority of their music is recorded live in the studio. “How the technology is used is what’s most important to us,” said Burkum. “Our last album was recorded in a day. If we messed up a little while playing, it’s on the record because it’s more true and live.” There was no Pro Tools editing done on their recording, which allowed their performances to guide their process.
When Burkum and Torrey sing, they’ve got a natural “twang”, a sort of country “drawl” to their style. It’s odd enough to see young men sing with such panache and deliver it so naturally, so Adam Levy, moderator, had to ask, “Did you guys have to teach yourselves to sing with that ‘country twang’ or did it come naturally for you?” They explained that they didn’t really teach themselves to sing this way, but said it didn’t come naturally either. They grew up listening to artists such as The Everly Brothers and The Beatles and just started singing like them.
Their explanation makes sense. Even though they’ve definitely perfected the country vocal sound, the majority of their vocal approach is an unbroken mix of melody and harmony. With the Cactus Blossoms, nearly all melodic vocal passages are accompanied by a harmony, just like The Everly Brothers records of years past.
In their day, The Everly Brothers were what America wanted to listen to. And it turns out the Twin cities is diggin’ the style again: “We’ve played everywhere, from The Dakota Jazz Club, to farmers markets,” said Draper. Who then informed the audience that they play The Turf Club every Tuesday.
The band’s next step is to continue playing shows and to hit the road soon. They plan to handle their business the DIY way, and they know it will require a substantial work ethic.
If you’d like to experience the Cactus Blossoms first hand, I invite you to enjoy the embedded video’s in this article. You can experience this week’s entire DIY in episodes via the IPR YouTube channel. Even if you’re not a country fan, The Cactus Blossoms have a unique voice to offer today’s music landscape; take some time to enjoy some of their music.