Fust’s first record Evil Joy was a self-described bitter domestic drama obsessed with the kitchen-sink passage of time measured by moments of leaving, returning, leaving, and returning. With Genevieve, we find a different kind of leaving: leaving behind, leaving one’s old ways, starting anew, a small life together, in “Family Country.” Thus, Genevieve: an historical name for both the saintly and the ordinary, the peasantry and the family, the community and the wife, extreme devotion and absolute forbearance.
While sonically and instrumentally louder than Evil Joy, Genevieve is thematically more quiet about its pains—more settled in its ways. It is a collection of pathetic love stories written in dedication to “small life,” moving from gentle exceptions (“I can take the late hours if you’re with me”) to pitiful admissions (“I’m never going to change when I leave…”). What comes with a quiet life? The highest forms of beauty, but we also find here songs of unspeaking companions, the sublime dread of having children, the balance of humility and humiliation, playing the fool for the greater good, and… budget birthday parties.
With these stories of possible growth, Genevieve can’t help but also feature tried and true examples of crisis and repression: seeking a bygone lifestyle in an old friend who hasn’t changed much over the years, pissing contests, search parties as the form of community for melancholics with no clue what they’ve lost, old flames you won’t let go and dying flames you won’t admit. Genevieve is a road movie and a local theatrical production of and by a community struggling to hold itself together, a record of too many names and too many places: Sarah Lee, John and Angel, Jimmy, Sam, Rockfort Bay, New England, California, Jackson, Silent City, Bridge Street, Fourth Avenue, and of course Genevieve. How do we keep up with everybody, how do we stay close to those we love? Can we begin to understand the most difficult thing, that the better the worse?
Blue Cactus, the North Carolina duo of Steph Stewart and Mario Arnez, make Dream Country: a blend of grit, glitz, groove, and twang that evokes a celestial soundscape of mid-century heartbreak and harkens comparisons eclectic and iconic as Bobbie Gentry, Fleetwood Mac, and David Bowie.
Their sophomore album, Stranger Again, released in 2021 on Sleepy Cat Records, nabbed enthusiastic attention from tastemakers including No Depression, American Songwriter, FLOOD Magazine, Talkhouse, and INDY Week among others. Following their critically acclaimed 2017 debut and a string of singles in 2020, Stranger Again saw the band taking their sound to an ambitious new plane, where country-rock and light psychedelia mingle, vocals soaring over twangy slide guitars and propulsive basslines.
Between the comfort of classic country and the glamor of 70s rock, Blue Cactus resuscitate a fleeting style of honest-to-goodness country m usic considered valueless to a “new” country music where songwriting is officiated by financial analysts and teams of marketing plutocrats instead of woebegone troubadours. With a high lonesome twang, an Emmylou-like southern drawl, and blistering guitar techniques, Blue Cactus exercises the honky-tonk muscles to firmly bear the flag for a new generation of country music.