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joseph terrell blue cactus

Joseph Terrell (Mipso) + Blue Cactus at The Word Barn

The Word Barn
66 Newfields Road
Exeter, NH 03833 United States
portsmouth nh tickets

A very special evening with Joseph Terrell (of the indie-Americana band, Mipso) and North Carolina’s eclectic duo, Blue Cactus.

Most widely known by music fans as a member of the indie-Americana band MipsoJoseph Terrell is well-accustomed to pushing the boundaries of traditional genres into new musical territory. On his first solo record, Good for Nothing Howl (2023, Sleepy Cat  Records),  this spirit of artistic exploration and expansion reaches new depths. The album has received praise from several tastemakers including No Depression, Americana UK, and Atwood Magazine, with Indy Week applauding, “Awash in mystical sound and symbolism…the lyrics are some of the best of Terrell’s career.” But in 2021 Terrell was burned out from a decade of non-stop touring. As he says, “I quit trying to write all together, quit playing for a while. Then at the beginning of spring I started dragging a chair under a tree in the yard and spending the morning with a guitar. I found a lot of songs that way, like they were already there, waiting for me to sing them out loud.”

Good for Nothing Howl features talking roses, screaming oak trees, and the fortune-telling powers of persimmons in nine songs as intimate as they are intense. Terrell’s fingerstyle guitar and relaxed vocals join contemporary string arrangements by producer Chris Boerner (Hiss Golden Messenger) and a pulsing rhythm section of Matt McCaughan (Bon Iver) and Cameron Ralston (Bonny Light Horseman, Bedouine). The result is a kaleidoscope of folk tradition and sonic playfulness with images of Terrell’s native North Carolina woods sparkling in the foreground, calling you to pay attention. As he sings in “Whisper,” “All the ordinary silence is a radio if you listen.”

Album opener “Persimmon” calls to mind the work of Nick Drake, as Terrell’s propulsive fingerstyle guitar gives way to a string section with the attitude of an electric guitarist. Our first taste of Terrell’s confident and relaxed vocal, “Walking the ridgeline, cold in the shade / Laurel and spruce pine scatter the grade…” plant us firmly in the natural landscape that shapes many of the songs. Not proposing a simple escape into nature, Terrell seems to train his ears and eyes on trees in order to better understand our modern world of quotidian violence and sanitized suburbs. “I hear sirens when I close my eyes / I smell money when the music dies,” he sings on “Fire On The Crowd.” Terrell shows himself to be a seasoned songwriter and singer steeped in folk traditions, brimming with a bold lyricism and sonic curiosity.

In “Cast Iron Kettle” a muted Martin guitar weaves a melody alongside Matt Douglas’ saxophone (The Mountain Goats), each blended through a synthesizer into a texture both familiar and unrecognizable. “Tallest House Of Cards” pays tribute to Terrell’s guitar-based folk roots and features a duet with Tift Merritt, a treasure of North Carolina songwriting.

In each song, Terrell seems to revel in a musical bait-and-switch: folk textures invite you in, only to reveal synthesized vocals and stabbing strings. He paints lush landscapes of goldenrod and sycamores only to interrupt them with lyrical thorns: “Licking honey dripping right from the spigot…it’s only home if you miss it.” If we want to find something genuine and honest amidst the commerce and noise, then maybe, Terrell proposes, we should start with a walk in the woods. As he sings on “Crooked Tooth,” “I would like to stay a little longer/ turning toward the little things / listening.”

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.

The North Carolina duo were official showcase artists for the 2023 SERFA Conference and have performed at several beloved festivals including Nelsonville, Red Wing Roots, Rooster Walk, Muddy Roots and Hopscotch with the likes of Japanese Breakfast, Neko Case and Angel Olsen among others. Currently, they are wrapping up work on their third studio album which was co-produced with Whit Wright (Thomas Rhett) and Saman Khoujinian (The Dead Tongues).

Between the comfort of classic country and the glamor of 70s rock, Blue Cactus resuscitate a fleeting style of honest-to-goodness country music 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.


Thanks to our sponsor, Ohana Kitchen, you can now order a delicious poke bowl and have it ready and waiting for you when you arrive to enjoy during the show. Good food, good music, and good people – we love it!

Order cut-off is 11am on day of show.