December always offers a bit of time to play catch-up, peruse the albums that were missed (there are always too many) and try to sink into a few sounds without the constant crush of releases coming as fast as other months. This one has been sitting in my queue for a little while and I’ve certainly meant to give it a shout before now, but here we are mid-December. Still a lovely time to let the country croon of Kevin Dehan wash over oneself. The latest offering under his Cactus Lee moniker finds Kevin fleshing out the sound a bit, moving away from the solo, private press vision that has followed him through his past couple of albums. While the record is still confessional and quiet, laced with the intimacy that I’ve come to expect from Cactus Lee, he brings a few friends along for the ride. John Bush of New Bohemians adds conga and other hand percussion while Alice Stewart lends some background vocals. The album was also the first to find Kevin moving into the studio, recorded with Kyle Crusham (also of New Bohemians) at Austin’s Vine Studios.
The record is still steeped in a solitary air, recalling the first half of his excellent Texas Music Forever. Cactus Lee has always had a bit of a loner lilt to it, winding down bittersweet tributaries of thought, and that feeling imbues Perfect Middle Hall. A bit of a pop enters into the fray this time, with Crusham’s hand scrubbing away some of the close-mic’d cavernous sound that Texas held in sway, but this is no stadium-sized country ramble. The private press edges may have been sanded, but Dehan is still whispering these tales into the listeners’ ears like last call comedowns to send you on your way. The band remains a bit under the radar, though Mapache have picked up the vinyl once again. At only 6 songs, the record delivers nicely, but definitely leaves the listener wanting more.