• author
    • Kate Laddish

      Columnist
    • November 19, 2013 in Columnists

    Texas troubadour Slaid Cleaves touring the Golden State with new album

    Acclaimed Austin-based singer and songwriter Slaid Cleaves’ deft songwriting and oh-so-slightly gravelly baritone voice have earned Cleaves acclaim and a devoted following. This week Cleaves has a full schedule of concerts in California in support of his most recent album “Still Fighting The War.”

    Austin, Texas-based musician Slaid Cleaves (courtesy photo by Karen Cleaves)

    Austin, Texas-based musician Slaid Cleaves (courtesy photo by Karen Cleaves)

    Cleaves finds the material for his enduring songs in the grind of daily life, chance interactions with characters on the road, the stories of lives long ended and “reluctantly optimistic” dreams of what the future may hold. The musical traditions of Cleaves’ native Maine and adopted hometown of Austin, Texas are evident in both the subjects and styles of his songs. From gripping narratives (“Breakfast In Hell,” “Quick As Dreams”) to character studies and vignettes (“New Years Day,” “Green Mountains and Me,” “Wreaking Ball”) to tongue-in-cheek declarations and yarns (“Texas Love Song,” “Skunk Juice”), Cleaves blends the careful word-smithing of the New England folk tradition with the dramatic story-songs of Texas country into potent — and frequently poignant — music that captures his listeners’ imaginations and hearts. Only a tunesmith of Cleaves’ caliber can take inspiration from sources as diverse as the epitaphs on century-old weathered headstones and the somewhat rowdy, stream-of-consciousness voicemail messages left by a cowboy friend—and make it all work.

    With a rich, slightly dusty baritone voice so good that you’d listen to the guy sing the phone book to the tune of “The Alphabet Song,” Cleaves unerringly finds the right vocal approach to each song. From the rollicking requiem of “New Year’s Day” to the weary perseverance of “Drinkin’ Days” and “Broke Down” to the lilting bounce of “Horses,” Cleaves infuses every song with the right emotional touch in a way that is effective and never feels contrived.

    Cleaves’ latest album, “Still Fighting The War,” is his seventh national release and eleventh overall. On previous albums Cleaves worked within loosely thematic frameworks, but on “Still Fighting” he gives himself rein to present songs from all over the topical and emotional map. The result is a rich collection of songs that has a feeling of creative freedom and vitality. The blue-collar rocker “Welding Burns” (co-written with Cleaves’ childhood friend and frequent collaborator Rod Picott) and steel guitar-drenched “God’s Own Yodeler” (a tribute to Don Walser) co-exist just fine on this album, and the diversity of sound gives the it a certain energetic punch.

    Few singers and songwriters can combine hope, heartache, love, loss and laughter like Cleaves. Audiences recognize this and respond with warm enthusiasm.

    Mississippi-via-Austin guitarist Scrappy Jud Newcomb is accompanying Cleaves on his California dates.

    For more information, visit slaidcleaves.com and the venues’ websites.

    Slaid Cleaves’ remaining California tour dates:
    ~ Tuesday November 19 – The Freight & Salvage, Berkeley, CA, http://www.thefreight.org/

    ~ Wednesday November 20 – Sebastopol Grange, Sebastopol, CA, http://www.northbaylive.com/

    ~ Thursday November 21 – The Palms Playhouse, Winters, CA, http://www.palmsplayhouse.com/

    ~ Friday November 22 – Nevada Theatre, Nevada City, CA, http://www.nevadatheatre.com/

    ~ Saturday November 23 – Kuumbwa, Santa Cruz, CA, http://www.snazzyproductions.com/



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