The Cactus Blossoms

The Cactus Blossoms

Our new album, You’re Dreaming, didn’t happen overnight. It is the culmination of several years of songwriting and the kindness of thousands of miles and friends. A cast of characters, experiences, and personal perspectives set in simple rhymes and sung in harmony to paint a picture in your mind.

When my brother and I started making music as The Cactus Blossoms there wasn’t a big plan. We cut our teeth performing some well known and obscure country songs that were popular or unpopular pre-1960, partly out of curiosity and deep appreciation, but mostly because it was fun. Early on, we were offered a residency at the Turf Club in St. Paul, Minnesota, so we got a band together and it became our weekly “practice-in-public” where we would pull out every song we could think of, no matter how well we knew it. It was our first chance to play all night and do whatever we wanted. Over the course of our year and a half at the Turf Club our repertoire had snowballed into an amalgam of original songs and a bunch of gut wrenching, “tongue-in-cheek” heartbreakers, that were 30 years older than us. Not everyone could tell what was new and what was old, and it didn’t really matter. They just seemed to enjoy it. That’s how the wheel got going and gave the illusion of spin
ning backwards. We weren’t born in the wrong era. We just got into some music from a different era and happened to make it our own.

Every step of the way we’ve had the good fortune of being offered an opportunity that seems just beyond what we’re ready for. It always stretches us out and makes us feel lucky as hell. When JD McPherson called us up and said he was interested in producing our record it was the latest in a series of serendipitous events that have brought us to where we are today. We had opened for him at a hometown gig in Minneapolis a few months earlier and had met him briefly, but could never have imagined then that within a year we would be recording a new album with his help and criss-crossing America on tour with his band. He’s got the singing voice of an angel, a connoisseur’s taste, the boundless creative energy of a child, a scholar’s mind, and he can hear like a wolf. This guy was the guy. He wanted to do something sparse and rhythmic with simple melodic arrangements and it lined up perfectly with the direction our new songs were leading us.

We wanted to record live with the best rhythm section we could find, which led us to Chicago where JD enlisted the amazing talents of drummer/engineer Alex Hall, guitarist Joel Paterson, and Beau Sample on upright bass. Three musicians who practice their respective crafts to genius proportions and bring it all to the studio. At the start of our first recording session we barely knew these guys and they barely knew our music. Alex was setting up microphones and running cables while the rest of us were drinking coffee and cracking jokes to wake up. Within a couple hours we had cut the first song for the album, “Queen Of Them All”, and we knew we were in the right place at the right time.

Jack & Page
The Cactus Blossoms
October 2015

Mike Killeen

Originally from Athens, Georgia and now calling nearby Decatur home, Mike Killeen has released five full-length albums and an EP—and shared the stage with alt-country luminary Jay Farrar, Grammy Award winners The Blind Boys of Alabama, and southern rock legends the Marshall Tucker Band. He counts Bob Dylan, Nirvana, Vic Chesnutt, and Uncle Tupelo among his formative influences.

Killeen’s most recent effort, “Ghost,” was produced by Ken Coomer (Wilco, Uncle Tupelo) at his Cartoon Moon Studios in Nashville and released in 2019 on Saturn 5 Records to worldwide distribution. “Ghost” features Killeen’s strongest set of songs to-date, and his collaboration with Coomer builds on his Americana roots, with a collection of tracks that straddles the lines between genres, including folk rock, pop rock, indie rock, and alternative rock. Killeen penned and contributed lead vocals for all nine songs, and played electric and acoustic guitars, harmonica, and piano. Coomer said of Killeen: “Mike Killeen can take you to that place, the place of a lost love, that yearning we all have for someone, or he can paint the picture of human loss, that deep line that runs between life and death.”

On “Ghost,” expert accompaniment from Joe Garcia on lead guitar, Ted Pecchio on bass, and Coomer on drums—as well the textural presence of keyboards, mellotron, mandocello, loops, and well-placed harmonies by Kristen Englenz and Nathan Beaver—give the album its hard-to-label, but easy-to-embrace vibe. The lead single, “She Called Me Last Night,” kicks off the album and points to Killeen’s active return to writing, performing, and recording new music after a long gestation, with the closing lyric, “If you believe in this thing, and all that it means, it will follow you wherever you will go.” Other highlights include “Siren Call,” “You Ain’t Settling Anymore,” and “Decatur Cemetery (Section 14).”.

Killeen’s immediately previous work, “Poverty is Real,” was also released on Saturn 5 Records. Produced by Will Robertson, the record is a more muscular presentation of Killeen’s songwriting than found previously, with crunchy electric guitars and raucous crash cymbals appearing throughout. BeAtlanta.com called Poverty is Real, a collection of “beautiful arrangements and meaningful lyrics.” The title track was included in Salvatore Alaimo’s documentary, “What is Philanthropy,” alongside songs by Patti Smith and Ziggy Marley.

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