I’m not a big fan of what is generally referred to as ‘Bro-Country’, however I am quite partial to classic old-school country music of the 50s and 60s. I’m talking about Patsy Cline, Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, Loretta Lynn and Marty Robbins, all of whom could do no wrong. They wrote and sang songs about life and love that tore at your heartstrings, and their music strongly influenced a multitude of artists in other genres, including folk, rock, rockabilly, R&B, soul and the blues. I fondly remember a fantastic album my parents owned by the legendary Ray Charles called Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music, which was a huge hit in 1962, but I digress… Thankfully, there are still artists around today who make country music that stays true to the classic form. The duo who call themselves Blue Cactus are such artists. Hailing from Chapel Hill, North Carolina, Blue Cactus are singer/songwriters Steph Stewart and Mario Arnez.
The pair played music together for three years as the Americana string band Steph Stewart & the Boyfriends, releasing two pretty decent albums, Over the World Below in 2013, and Nobody’s Darlin’ in 2015. They’ve now recorded their first full-length album as Blue Cactus, which is set to drop in late February. In advance of the album, they’ve released a lovely single “I Never Knew Heartache (Then I Knew You)” along with a compelling video.
The song is about a woman whose man is being unfaithful, causing her heartache. With sorrow in her voice, Steph croons “Heartbreak will find you, wrap his arms round your waist. Hold you tight through the night, in his lonely embrace.” Musically, the song features many signature elements of a classic Country song – a pretty slide guitar riff, gentle piano keys, acoustic guitar, sweet violin and light percussion, all played at a languid pace. The lovely but rather mournful chorus adds to the overall sad vibe of the song.
The interesting video, produced by Roxanne Turpen, juxtaposes footage of the couple performing the song (in which Steph wears a short white-blonde wig) with other scenes of them acting out the story told by the song lyrics. Steph sings directly into the camera while her man spends time with another woman, unaware of her presence. Happier times are recalled in other scenes of them sharing tender moments together.
Here’s a nice video worth watching of Steph and Mario talking about why they make music and the influences for their particular style of Country.
To learn more about Blue Cactus, check out their website. Follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and follow their YouTube channel. Their upcoming debut album may be pre-ordered at http://bluecactus.bigcartel.com/product/blue-cactus-cd-pre-order