Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Artist Spotlight: Slaid Cleaves

As i mentioned in a previous post, i use the Hype Machine (http://www.hypem.com/) to find, and listen to, a lot of music. It's an amazing site, but you can't find everything on there. It seems that a few a my favorite artists cannot be found in the blog world. But now that i have my own blog, i can change all that. And maybe in the process - turn some people on to some great musicians they may not know about.

First order of business..........

Slaid Cleaves

Slaid Cleaves. Grew up in Maine. Lives in Texas. Writes songs. Makes records. Travels around. Tries to be good. (courtesey slaidcleaves.com)

Maybe it's beacause he's not heavy into the MySpace thing (until a few days ago, he hadn't updated his page since his early '06 album release), maybe it's because he isn't the most prolific guy around (only 7 albums in 18 years, and nothing in the works), or maybe it's because he doesn't tour like a madman (although he does cross the pond occasionally), but whatever the reason no one is blogging about Slaid Cleaves is beyond me. This guy is, in my opinion, the best troubadour in the folk scene alive today.
He is a singer, a songwriter, a guitar player, but you only need one word to describe Slaid best:


He tells sorrowful stories of love gone wrong, depression era depictions of a dying towns, mythic adventures of Canadian Lumberjacks, and action-packed laments from the perspective of an aging horse jockey. Oh, and he can Yodel like a sonofabitch.

But i'm not here to give artist bio's, so i'll just give you a chronologic song sampling, highlighting some of those captivating stories....

don't be a jackass - go here and buy these straight from Slaid himself. Or iTunes, if that's your thing. But all songs are right-click, save as.

mp3: Smitten ~ from The Promise (1990)

This is one of only two songs i have from this out-of-print album. It's obviously early Slaid, but it still has that true singer-songwriter feel.

mp3: Tell Me ~ from Life's Other Side (1992)

Another album i can't seem to get may hands on, but this heartfelt song will keep me trying.

mp3: No Angel Knows ~ from No Angel Knows (1997)

Here, we find Slaid Cleaves coming into that sound of his i love so much. Some sorta mix between bluegrass and blues thats sounds like an old jug band sittin in a swamp somewhere. Complete with fiddle and a thumpin' stand-up bass.

mp3: Lydia ~ from Broke Down (2000)

Broke Down was released not long before i came across Mr. Cleaves, and has become his career-making album. Although this isn't Slaid's song (Karen Poston wrote it - check her out) it shook me to the core the first time i heard it and still does. He delivers a despairing tune of a woman twice-scarred by coal mine tragedy.

mp3: Below ~ from Wishbones (2004)

My favorite album of his, Wishbones shows Slaid in his best storytelling effort. It took me a while to narrow it down to just one song to show off these amazing accounts, but Below is a story of a small town doomed to be flooded when the dam is built. BUY THIS RECORD!

a similar story and a great song here about the Tennessee Valley Authority:
mp3: The Everybodyfields - T.V.A. [MySpace] [iTunes]

mp3: Fairest of Them All ~ from Unsung (2006)

Unsung is one of the coolest concept albums i've heard. It's a covers album, but not of overdone, well-known covers. Instead, Slaid carefully picked songs from his peers (some virtually unknown) that perfectly fit his style. Just from listening, you would never know these weren't his songs. Fairest of Them All is a song by Ana Egge.

Ok, so i couldn't help myself. Here are a couple more good stories from Wishbones.

mp3: Quick as Dreams

mp3: New Year's Day

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