The Cactus Brothers

Warren Ray & "Screamin'" John Hawkins

By Dallas Embry

An abbreviated version of the Warren Ray Band, featuring Warren Ray on vocals and guitar, and "Screamin'" John Hawkins on guitar and mandolin, opened the evening on Friday, December 6 at Uncle Pleasant's.

Ray's tunes are mostly love songs. "Runaway" (not the Del Shannon song), "If That's the Way You Want It," and "I" featured some good guitar duets accompanying Ray's angst-ridden lyrics. Hawkins picked up his mandolin and the music progressed to a slow rolling boil with "Inside Out," "Touch and Go...," then a teenage back seat romance title "Starvin'."

Ray soloed on the melancholy love ballad "Stupid Heart" and a pretty new tune, "Wonderful." Hawkins joined him to close out their set with a couple of nostalgic songs about country life.

The popular Nashville-based rock band Walk the West has always performed with touches from genres other than rock incorporated into their sound. The Cactus Brothers is the alter-ego of Walk the West, plus dulcimer player par excellence David Schnaufer and ace dobro man Sam Poland.

As an old fan of Schnaufer, having a passionate lust for dobro and having enjoyed Walk the West every time I've seen them, I was ready for a special evening. I was not disappointed.

The Brothers eased into their set with solo acoustic guitar accompanying "Hope and Misery" with the lyrics ". . . ticket to nowhere and I'm leavin tonight" and "let the darkness swallow the light."

With the addition of dulcimer, mandolin, electric violin, pedal steel, electric guitar, bass and drums, they were off and rolling. After a semi-rollicking Cajun tune, they slid into the instrumental "Spaced Out 'n' Blue," during which Tramp played some really beautiful electric violin.

Following this was a "new country" song which featured some nice sounds on banjo and pedal steel, then everyone joined in for "Crazy Heart." The harmony was splendid. Next was "Let's Be Old Fashioned," with more wonderful harmony and an inspired segue from Poland's steel to Tramp's violin so smooth that I wasn't sure which instrument was which for a second or three.

Tramp began ":Turkey in the Straw," which evolved into a Native American-sounding piece, then to a rap song, another Cajun jumper, then back to the old standard. They gave a nod to Tennessee Ernie Ford as they rocked "Sixteen Tons." then boogied through "Hot Chicken Pie" with some honkin' harmonica.

Schnaufer and Tramp were featured in a really pretty duet on electric violin and lap dulcimer, then WTW took a tad more control with the 60's tune "Don't Bogart That Joint," which they really revved up, then they gave Led Zeppelin the same treatment they had given "Turkey . . ." earlier, only they threw in a little bluegrass for pot liquor.

From a dirge-like piece with Celtic roots they slipped into the familiar with "Laura's Theme" and "Spanish Harlem" before finding down.

The Cactus Brothers are Paul Kirby, guitar; John Goleman, bass; Will Goleman, banjo; Tramp, violin; Dave Kennedy, drums; Sam Poland, dobro and pedal steel; and David Schnaufer, mountain dulcimer.