Cactus Lee


See this is one of those great arguments for year-end lists. The inbox here is overstuffed to say the least, and that means that sometimes the true gems fall through the cracks. Thanks to a few folks’ recap recommendations, I sifted back through the stacks to find this excellent album from Austin’s Cactus Lee. Kevin Dehan has been working under the name for a few years now, and his catalog’s packed with bittersweet country gems, but the sun glints just right off of the curves and creases of Texas Music Forever, perhaps his defining statement.

Dehan approaches country with a lightly woolen touch, wrapping the tracks in a flanneled softness and imbuing dawn light that stretches out over these pieces with a stillness that’s sometimes absent from the genre. The songs on TMF are tender — beaten, but not broken — settling into their fates with a resigned sigh. His songs turn around and face truths with a resigned air, like a last swig from the bottle before heading out the door. The first side is acoustic, ensconced in picked mandolin, guitar and the lingering laments of fiddle. Dehan’s songs on this side work like lullabies, stuck somewhere between the broken blue collar approach of Blaze Foley, the road dust drifting of Jim Sullivan, and the confessional pop dioramas of Emitt Rhodes.

On side two, the band kicks in, feeling like every song might close down a decent night of dark-corner drinking and heartbreak healing. The tempos swell, but that overarching feeling of narcotized melancholy remains, stinging in sweet waves with each new song. Texas Music Forever seems like it may have slipped away for many, not just me, and it’s never to late to sink into Cactus Lee’s sun-dipped classics. I can see why this one might have ended up on year-enders over at New Commute and Aquarium Drunkard (both worthy scrolls if you haven’t already) so maybe slot in an asterisk to my list. Better late than never.

Support the artist. Buy it HERE or HERE.

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