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Red House (RHRCD293)

Stoplight Kisses, You’re Dreaming, Queen Of Them All, Clown Collector, Mississippi, Powder Blue, Change Your Ways Or Die, If I Can’t Win, No More Crying The Blues, Adios Maria, Traveler’s Paradise

This album first appeared in the ‘in’ tray here at The Lickery just as we were putting the finishing touches to the last catalogue. At the time, we were just about quick enough to squeeze in a catalogue listing, without having the chance to give it proper listen. Fortunately, we were already aware that the band had recently supported Nick Lowe on a US tour and, invoking the fail-safe dictum that if something is good enough for Saint Nick it will be plenty good enough for us, we turned our attention to this album as soon as we could.

And, boy, are we glad that we did as it quickly became, and remains, just about the most played CD at The Lickery over recent months. As things stand, it may retain this position for some time yet.

Knowing the album as we now do, it is easy to see why Nick Lowe would want to tour with The Cactus Blossoms and offer them the opportunity for wider exposure. His love of carefully crafted country melodies, light touch rockabilly, gorgeous vocal harmonies and intelligent and articulate song-writing has always been very much in evidence throughout his own recording career. And this album has all of these attributes, in spades. The most obvious points of reference are Gram Parsons, the Everly Brothers and, going further back, the Louvin Brothers, and perhaps it is no co-incidence that the driving force of the band also consists of two brothers from Minnesota.

Given it is their debut album, this is an amazingly mature and fully realised collection of songs. Across the eleven tracks, there is a thematic unity and incredible consistency, whether they are sedately pacing their way  through the shimmering beauty of Powder Blue, invoking the spirit of Hank Williams on Change Your Ways Or Die or rockin’-and-a-rollin’ through No More Crying The Blues, featuring a fabulous grumbling guitar riff. Some credit for this no doubt should go to the co-producer, JD McPherson, who was able to offer more experience of studio-craft than this young band are likely to have at this early stage of their musical career.

Each and every song on the album is a peach but my current favourite perhaps is If I Can’t Win, a downbeat meditation on a life in the balance with a lyrical heft and depth reminiscent of Nick Lowe’s big pal, Elvis Costello, at his best. And, even if you’ve never actually been to South Texas, the atmospheric beauty of Adios Maria will make you nostalgic for a Lone Star state you don’t actually have any experience of!

Apart from obvious limitations on space, there isn’t any end to the good things that could be said about this album. Buy it now and enjoy it for years to come!

Review Date: April 2016

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