Cactus Blossoms are blessed by good fortune

Page Burkum, left, and his brother Jack Torrey perform as the Cactus Blossoms. Their sound has often been compared to the Everly Brothers.

Contributed photo

The vocal harmonies of Page Burkum and Jack Torrey of the Cactus Blossoms have an uncanny resemblance to the sound of the Everly Brothers. Although Burkum and Torrey also are brothers, they claim they never made a conscious effort to sound like the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame duo.

“We kind of stumbled into being more like the Everly Brothers than we ever intended,” Burkum said in advance of the Cactus Blossoms’ upcoming show at the Temple Theatre in Viroqua.

Surprisingly, Burkum and Torrey had never really sung together until they formed the Cactus Blossoms. The band got its first big break when it snared a once-a-week gig at the Turf Club in St. Paul. Essentially, it was a year-and-a-half residency, and it provided a young band with priceless experience — they got to play all night, take chances and learn what worked and what didn’t.

Their repertoire became a mix of originals and pre-1960 songs — both popular and obscure. “We did it partly out of curiosity and deep appreciation, but mostly because it was fun,” Burkum said.

Meanwhile, the weekly gig was developing into a real scene.

“Not everyone could tell what was old and what was new, and it didn’t really matter,” Burkum said. “People just seemed to enjoy it … We weren’t born in the wrong era — we just got into some music from a different era and found a way to make it our own.”

Their next break came after they met J.D. McPherson, a musician known for his mastery of the retro sounds of 1950s rock, R & B and rockabilly.

“When J.D. McPherson called and said he was interested in producing our record, it was the latest in a series of serendipitous events that brought us where we are today,” Burkum said.

He added that McPherson seemed to have sensed where the two musicians were in their development and figured they needed help in making a good record.” McPherson is from Oklahoma, but the brothers first encountered him when the Cactus Blossoms opened a show in Minneapolis.

“We had met him briefly but never would have imagined that within a year we would be collaborating on a new album and criss-crossing America on a tour with his band,” Burkum said. They’ve since toured in Europe with McPherson and will do so again in the fall.

“Some of our best shows have been in places like London and Madrid,” Borkkum said.

The album McPherson produced is titled “You’re Dreaming” and — in line with his predilections and the direction the band was heading in anyway — it features sparse, rhythmic tunes with simple melodic arrangements that showcase the brothers’ vocal harmonies.

Because they wanted the best rhythm section they could find to play during the recording process, McPherson lined up some ace musicians from Chicago for the project — drummer Alex Hall, guitarist Joel Patereson and bassist Beau Sample.

“It felt like a musical dream team, but we had no idea what would happen,” Burkum said. What resulted was a standout debut album that simultaneously retro and timeless.

Among the standout cuts are “Powder Blue” and “Mississippi,” the latter which received national exposure on Showtime in June when it was played on David Lynch’s new “Twin Peaks: The Return.”

Although their music may have taken them to many faraway places, the Cactus Blossom are not unfamiliar with the Coulee Region. “We’ve played before in Gays Mills and at Leo and Leona’s, Burkum said, “plus the members of The Yellow-Bellied Sapsuckers (the opening act for the Oct. 5 show) are our good friends, so we’re pretty excited about this show.”


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