Cactus Lee

Cactus Lee, and Texas Yard Sale (709 Recordings)

Texas Platters

In the face of all recording industry conventions, Cactus Lee issued their debut and sophomore albums, both 10-track vinyl LPs, on the same day. It's a creatively audacious move for the subterranean songwriting trio, but the material's so strong, you can't call it unjustified.

Texas Platters

The group's self-titled effort contains one of the most splendid underground folk tracks you might happen upon in 2019, "Clamshell Alley," which matches Blaze Foley's "Wouldn't That Be Nice" in melody and prosody before escalating into the comforting refrain "You're gonna land/ Land in your mother's hands." On that track and all 19 others, Kevin Dehan's Piedmont-pattern fingerpicking serves as Cactus Lee's musical hallmark, alchemizing with Mike Bova's bouncy electric bass and Carson Dickey's scrappy lap steel and electric guitar solos. Once the guitarist for ATX minimalist pop outfit Love Inks, Dehan's gentle, warm baritone proves consistently effective as he relates lyrically abstract lifestyle doctrines with mild introspection in the songwriting space between John Prine and Bill Callahan. The platter's most direct narrative, "Dave Saves," chronicles a protagonist catfished by a prison inmate posing as a religious leader.

Cactus Lee's simultaneous second record, also issued on their 709 Recordings – named for sacred digits of Austin's subcultural Seventies – stacks an even better tracklist. The melodically alluring "Romero," the perfectly lonesome chorus of "Lorraine," and the pleasantly protesting "Bastard" evidence an exceptional sequence of songcraft. If Dehan's voice is a candle, then Bova's a burning mattress. His rowdier lead vocal contributions, including Texas Yard Sale change-of-pace "Sinking Suds," are fit to be sung in the parking lot of a bar at 2:05am.

(Cactus Lee) ***

(Texas Yard Sale) ***.5

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Music Reviews
Texas Platters
Kinky Friedman
Resurrection (Record Review)

Rick Weaver, Jan. 3, 2020

Texas Platters
The Beaumonts / Hickoids
This Is Austin, All the World's a Dressing Room (Record Review)

Kevin Curtin, Jan. 3, 2020

More by Kevin Curtin
Review: Rapper Billy Woods Has the Most Intense Lyrics at an Extreme Music Festival
Review: Rapper Billy Woods Has the Most Intense Lyrics at an Extreme Music Festival
His lines read like a poetry book bound in human flesh

May 14, 2022

Crucial Concerts for the Coming Week
Crucial Concerts for the Coming Week
Girl Ultra, Nori with strings, Maxo Kream, Mudhoney, Little Mazarn, and more recommended shows

May 13, 2022


Cactus Lee

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Behind the scenes at The Austin Chronicle

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle