SLAID CLEAVES

Grew up in Maine. Lives in Texas. Writes songs. Travels around. Tries to be good.

The music of Austin-based singer/songwriter and guitarist SLAID CLEAVES is rooted in country and traditional folk songs, but it is unusual enough to stand out in a sea of singer/songwriters across the 1990s, 2000s, and 2010s. While he released a handful of recordings during the early '90s, he gained significant notice with No Angel Knows, which was released in 1997. Joined by former Lucinda Williams guitarist Gurf Morlix, CLEAVES combined his passion for folk songs, blues, and traditional country music into an amalgamation of styles known as Americana.

SLAID CLEAVES spins stories with a novelist’s eye and a poet’s heart. Twenty years into his career, the celebrated songwriter’s Still Fighting the War spotlights an artist in peak form. CLEAVES’ seamless new collection delivers vivid snapshots as wildly cinematic as they are carefully chiseled. Dress William Faulkner with faded jeans and a worn six-string for a good idea. “Slaid’s a craftsman,” says Terri Hendrix, who sings harmony on “Texas Love Song.” “He goes about his songs like a woodworker.”

Accordingly, CLEAVES’ earthy narratives stand oak strong. “Men go off to war for a hundred reasons/But they all come home with the same demons,” he sings on the album’s title track. “Some you can keep at bay for a while/Some will pin you to the floor/You’ve been home for a couple of years now, buddy/But you’re still fighting the war.” Few writers frame bruised souls as clearly. Fewer still deliver a punch with such striking immediacy.

Still Fighting the War follows the razor sharp songwriter’s undeniable hat trick – Broke Down (2000), Wishbones (2004) and Everything You Love Will Be Taken Away (2009) – that established him as a singular storyteller. His golden key: effortlessly shading dark with light.

“You get a lot of the man behind the lyrics,” Hendrix says. “What you see with SLAID is what you get: He doesn’t have the eyes of a cynic. He has optimism about him through a realistic gaze and writes with a wise voice.”

“Slaid is my favorite co-writer,” says Picott, who also co-wrote the new album’s standout “Welding Burns.” “He’s a smart writer with a gift for wringing the most out of a melody. Slaid understands that the song has to rule. He's patient and unwavering in his pursuit of the best.” Cleaves humbly accepts the praise. “Despite the odds, through persistence and good fortune I've carved out a niche for myself,” he says. “You could say I have a ‘Whim of Iron.’"

I’m glad I found Slaid Cleaves, because my life would have been poorer without him. You’ll feel the same, I think, when you listen to this beautifully crafted album. Listen, go to one of Slaid’s shows, take a friend, and pass on the news: Not all the good guys wear hats. —Stephen King

A sharply observant songwriter with a deep appreciation for the ageless fundamentals of folk, country, and rock … one of the country’s most compelling roots artists. —Chicago Reader

He phrases like a grifter trying to croon his low-down past away—and writes like he knows he never will. ‘I’ve been chasing grace but grace ain’t so easily found,’ he sings on ‘One Good Year,’ just one of the many subtle, momentary stays against the dark side of his heart. That heart doesn’t bleed easily—but when it does, it bleeds true. —River Front Times, St. Louis

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8/20/15 - Thursday

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