The Cactus Blossoms


It wasn’t that long ago that I was one of those people. You know, those people who say dismissively “Oh, I listen to most everything except for rap and country”.

Then the Cactus Blossoms came into my life. Well, “came into my life” might be slightly misleading. To be honest, I stalked them at least a little. As a die-hard fan of the Minneapolis based Jack Klatt and the Cat Swingers, I went on a quest to discover Jack Klatt’s compatriots. I assumed they’d have to be good.

I was oh-so right.

When I say The Cactus Blossoms are Western and Country, put from your mind the modern pop-country drama queens and kings. Rather, I’m talking about Jimmie Rodgers, Gene Autry, steel guitars and fiddles. While this is serious music, it doesn’t take itself too seriously. Forget about pop-country tweeny love songs or serious ballads about how the refrigerator broke and the dog ran away.

This album boasts expert craftsmanship, from the myriad instruments to the brilliance of the song writing. The music is dominated by the lead singers perfect harmony, steel guitars, and a particularly beautifully played fiddle. The album boasts 10 albums, 8 of which are apparently originals. To be honest, the whole album just feels so…cohesive that I’m surprised they all aren’t written by the same hand. The Cactus Blossoms truly have song writing prowess.

This certainly isn’t a “let’s rock the fuck out” album. You’re not going to fly into manic dancing. But if you’re anything like me, when it comes on randomly after several days of not listening to it, an audible “ah” will escape your lips as you realize that this is just the perfect song for right now. Just like it always is.

Find The Cactus Blossoms at their bandcamp page, where you can enjoy their music and pick up an album while you’re at it. You know you want to.

What to Expect
Singing cowboy style old-school Western. Fiddles, steel guitar, and talented musicians remaking an iconic American musical style that deserves to be revived.

What to Take Away
While the idea of “Western Music” often makes people wrinkle their noses, it shouldn’t. I’m the first in line of this guilt-train.

What to Drink with it
There’s been a lot of whiskey drinking round Sound and Tonic, and that’s not letting up this week. Find your nearest bottle of whiskey. Pour a shot or two into a glass. Drink it warm.

Favorite Song
It’s a tie. “Adios Maria” is beautiful. The ballad is exactly what I expect from an old singing cowboy. The heavy fiddle influence doesn’t hurt – I’m a huge sucker for any instrument played with a bow. The singing is also just so damn spot on.

Alternatively, “Cold Foot Boogie” is so absurdly 1970s western-Hawaiian kitsch that it made me laugh out loud, and ultimately caused me to purchase the album. The steel guitar is instant nostalgia.

Posted by Leslie on 2012.03.05 to Uncategorized | No Comments »  

The Mountain Goats – Heretic Pride

Heretic Pride Album Cover

Heretic Pride is an enigma. On one hand, it is home to the song Heretic Pride, Sax Rohmer #1 and Lovecraft in Brooklyn. On the other hand, it’s home to quite a few songs I can’t seem to remember exist. Then, I think to myself “Damn. Heretic Pride is the perfect album! I love every song!”, only to actually listen to the album and realize this isn’t true. I just have constant and recurring amnesia about the songs I dislike.

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Posted by Leslie on 2011.02.23 to Reviews | No Comments »  

The Armadillos – The Armadillos

The Armadillos Self Titles

Folk is big these days. At least it was there for a bit. Between the Avett Brothers and Mumford and Sons, it seemed the world was ready to step away from the auto-tuning and enjoy music that’s more than 65% real. I hope that’s still going on. I don’t follow the world closely enough to know anymore.

If folk is big, then the Armadillos should be big too.

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Posted by Leslie on 2011.01.15 to Reviews | 1 Comment »  

Warren Zevon – The Wind (an album review)

The Win, duh.

This is an important album in the library of any Zevonite. It’s the end of an era, a beautiful final album by an amazing musician with the help of many brilliant, talented and famous friends. It’s truly a lovely album. I just don’t like it that much.

Heresy and blasphemy, should the High Priest of Zevon hear of it, my life is forfeit.

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Posted by Leslie on 2011.01.02 to Reviews | No Comments »  

Paul Simon – Graceland


Now this is an album. My ratings for individual songs are all over the board. From one to five stars, one song will cause me to erupt into impromptu dance and another will send me spinning into a rage. And yet it seems like once a month I think that I ought to listen to Graceland again.

Paul Simon’s lyrics are freaking gorgeous. Many of his songs are pure poetry. But add music and instantly I’m bored. I think it’s the generic 1980s music accompanying so many of the songs. Take, for example, “I Know What I Know”. The music is boring. It’s straight up tired. The Gaza Sisters add interest, and draw me back into the song, but then they go away and I’m lost again. Half the music on this album just sounds like a pre-programmed track on a keyboard.

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Posted by Leslie on 2010.12.28 to Reviews | No Comments »  

Paul Simon Song Analysis: You Can Call Me Al

I bought the album for this song. I love this song. I love the fake synthesized trumpets, I love the bass line, I love the music video.

The lyrics: consistently cryptic. After much sleuthing, here are several purported meanings of this song:

1) It’s about a man having a mid-life crisis. Seems pretty reasonable, though doesn’t explain that “body guard” quip.

2) It’s all about Paul Simon. The beginning is Paul Simon worrying about his music career. The middle is Paul Simon worrying about his freshly broken family. The end is Paul in South Africa, realizing life will go on. Still no explanation for that “body guard” line.

3) It’s all about Dante’s Inferno. This one’s my favorite. A genius on put this one forward. Alighieri shortened is Al, Beatrice (Dante’s lost love) is shortened to Betty. He goes through Hell and purgatory to find her, and ends up in heaven. Betty is is body guard, because, well, she’s dead. She can rock the afterlife world better than him. Who cares if this is or isn’t what Paul Simon’s thinking. It’s brilliant.

4) It’s about apartheid. Black man in Johannesburg, shit sucks. Still nothing about Betty as a bodyguard.

5) It’s about alcohol. Al, as in alcohol. Betty, as in the Betty Ford clinic. Amusing. Apparently Paul Simon met Chevy Chase at said Betty Ford Clinic. And since Chevy Chase was in the music video…

6) Of course I know the story of Paul Simon at a party where the host supposedly consistently (and accidentally) called Paul Simon and his wife by “Al” and “Betty”, but, well. that’s boring. And still doesn’t explain the verses.

This song is clearly dated. The synthesizers are overwhelming. But they’re played with such promise. They’re not tired old synthesizers, they’re bursting with emotion and energy. When there wasn’t a million feet of snow outside, I would belt this song as I biked to work in the morning. It was good.

Posted by Leslie on to Reviews | 1 Comment »  

Architecture in Helsinki – Neverevereverdid

Architecture in Helsinki – Neverevereverdid

Um. What?

I let my entire library shuffle, and this was the first thing that came up.

It really sounds like a movie soundtrack. I have taken it upon myself to write a corresponding movie:

(If you would be so kind as to pull up the song on youtube and listen to it as you scroll, you’d get a better feel for my images.)

The scene open upon a lovely girl, locked away from the world by her evil captor. She sings of her woes.

(See full article for awesome art.)

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Posted by Leslie on 2010.11.10 to Reviews | No Comments »  

Jack Klatt & the Cat Swingers

Jack Klatt Album Cover

If you ever wanted a John Steinbeck character to crawl from his novel and take up the life of a travelling musician, then Jack Klatt is your man.

I’m honestly at a loss. This man is amazing. His growling baritone. His amazing writing. His ability to remake old songs. The expert of the musicians. The growling trumpet so aptly placed in most of the songs. It’s all perfection.

It’s been ages since I’ve been so smitten with a new musician. Every couple months I look to see if he has a new album, and when he doesn’t I swear and hope for next time. I can only hope others catch onto his brilliance, because I want him to be able to dedicate his life to making amazing music, and making it available for me to purchase! He could be my next Warren Zevon, my next Mountain Goats. I just need more than 10 songs! Please Jack Klatt?

This album really has it all. Alt-country, folk, blues. From up tempo songs about losing it on wall street to tender songs of love and life. I’d highlight my favorite songs if every song wasn’t my favorite. If you like folk, any kind of folk, go listen to Jack Klatt. Right now.

What to Expect?

The best damn folk/blues you’ve ever experienced. Why haven’t you bought his album yet?

What to Take Away?

Jack Klatt and the Cat Swingers is an amazing band. It’s pure bliss.

What Drink to Pair it With?

Best would be some homemade wine or moonshine, but I don’t have any of that around. In lieu of that I’d have to say bourbon, straight up.

Favorite Song?

Oh man. This could turn into a bloody death match. There’s something about “Ruckus on Wallstreet” that’s just so seductive. Once that song starts I just have to listen to the whole album. “Sweet Maureen” is also amazing, and the line “she screws like a bullet coming out of a gun” is among the best I’ve ever heard. “Anywhere I Go” is slow, sentimental, soulful, and generally not the type of song I’d lose it for. And yet it’s one of my favorites from the album. It’s just so beautiful. The other seven songs on the album tie for second place.

Posted by Leslie on 2010.11.09 to Reviews | 2 Comments »  

Musical Throwback #13 – Anarchy Waltz

Super adorable

I’m sure you, like myself, have occasionally looked back at a song, band, or haircut from your teens and thought “Oh god. What was I thinking?”

This is not one of those times, though I thought it would be. The band: The Distorted Penguins. The Song: Anarchy Waltz. This track, thought to be long dead, was resurrected by a mythical mix CD that suddenly came to light in the shuffle of shlepping off to Wisconsin.
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Posted by Leslie on 2010.08.12 to Commentary | No Comments »  

We’re back online: Now with more 80s!

Super adorable

Within the past few months, I found myself graduating from college, moving across country, and adopting a dog. While the last one is arguably the most awesome of the three, all of them left me scrambling for free time and internet access, in that order.

Things are settling down, though, which leaves me time to go back to resurrecting music. See, my anthropology degree is coming in handy already.
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Posted by Leslie on 2010.07.27 to Commentary | No Comments »