Honky tonk and country singer Gary Stewart released plenty of albums for RCA, and one of the truly great ones is Cactus and a Rose. Produced by Chips Moman, it featured studio contributions from Gregg Allman, Dickey Betts, Reggie Young, Bonnie Bramlett, Bobby Emmons, Gary Scruggs, and others. It’s a killer collection of tunes that reflects Stewart's honky tonk and the sound of smoother '70s Southern rock. His voice is one of the most soulful, atypical, and expressive ever heard in Nashville and that’s underscored here, especially on the ballads. And while his singles charted on the country charts throughout the early ‘70s, this set was his only album to make the Billboard pop charts, albeit at number 165. Every track is a winner, but the standouts include the opener, “Okeechobee Purple”; the title track ballad; and “Lover’s Knot,” written with Allman (who sings backup) and featuring stellar guitar work by Betts. “Harlan County Highway,” written with Betts, is another excellent cut, as is the wild honky tonk of “Roarin',” with Bramlett singing barrelhouse with Stewart like the house is on fire.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek