Jessica Lewis has been performing and touring for 10 years as a member and collaborator with a wide range of notable groups, including Brent Randall and His Pinecones, Hymm, Dark For Dark, and Wet Denim; now, with Magic Hour, her debut album as Cactus Flower, she showcases her unique and singular voice as an independent songwriter and singer.
Cactus Flower songs evoke a long history of folk and country music, but it’s a sound that’s approached with a restless spirit. Boom-chicka drums and bouncing country bass are interrupted by Beatles/Byrds inspired psychedelia in first single “Darkest Hour,“ un-conventional keyboard sounds meld with jangling electric guitars on “Redbird,“ the honkey-tonk piano solo “Left The Lights On” echoes through strange cathedrals. It’s music well paired to Lewis’ narratives of free spirited and adventurous women (“China Blue,“ “Jojo,“ and “Cola”) loosening their ties to small towns and small expectations. Jessica’s voice is warm, breathy and articulate, as she delivers these stories and character studies with a light touch, with word-play and rhyme (“she cried out singing to the starry sky, wandering round and wondering how to get so high, up above all those small town lights”), and a pop sensibility inspired by Harry Nilsson and the Monkees. It’s music as evocative and filled with promise as those mysterious transitions between day and night that lend the album it’s name.
Recorded at the legendary Echo Chamber in Halifax’s north end by engineer and Cactus Flower drummer Dave Ewenson (also of The K-Tels, Brent Randall and his Pinecones, The Taste (Halifax), Hymm, Catbag), Magic Hour features the talents of well known and celebrated names: keyboardist Levon Campbell, songwriter and vocalist behind Hymm; bassist Evan Cardwell of Bad Vibrations, Secret Colours, Journeys, and Escape Tapes; and pedal steel ace Asa Brosius (JP Harris, Dark for Dark, Rose Cousins, and many more). The band brings life to these songs, written and collected over years, some dating back as far as 2009. They have been performed live, demoed, thought about, tended, and waited on, before finding this final form with these talented musicians.
A cactus blooms unexpectedly, rarely, and after long dormancy. Cactus Flower’s Magic Hour is a rare blossoming of talent, a shock of colour, an escape from the hard scrabble and thorny, of beauty worth the patience.