"He's got it, whatever 'it' is." This is the quote from Ray Wylie Hubbard on the back of Slaid Cleaves' latest release Broke Down. I'd have to agree with this assumption completely. Slaid is one of the most promising talents in Texas music today and is rapidly gaining national recognition due to his lengthy tours and great songwriting.
The people discussed in Slaid's songs aren't exactly the most upbeat subjects, but it's a great tale of real people told by a real person. The songs do a great job of allowing you to feel the heartache felt by the people whose lives are on display in the songs.
The album opens with the title track, "Broke Down," which is a tale of a woman in a tired marriage who meets a young man who uses her and runs away in the end. It's not exactly the most happy story, but it's a good tale of how life can misdeal you.
One of the best songs on the album is "Horseshoe Lounge." This is a great song about a bar where you feel at home. The lyrics deal with waiting at the bar for the love of your life to return. As the story with a lot of people in bars, you wait for life to come and correct itself for you.
It's these real life tales that make you relate to Slaid's music so well. Everyone has been faced with a lot of the problems faced by the people Slaid sings about.
"Breakfast In Hell" is an eeiry folk tale of a man named Sandy Gray who died trying to break up a log jam in Canada. Slaid got the idea for the song while recording with friend/producer Gurf Morlix. It's a good epic folk song that carries you through the entire tale. It's an absolutely wonderful song.
The saddest song on the album is "Lydia." I literally teared up listening to this song. It's a desperate tale of a wife/mother who lost her husband and child in the coal mines. It's a sad tale of how she never recovered from the losses, and still works to cope with everyday life.
The album then moves on with an musical interpretation of Woody Guthrie's poem "This Morning I Am Born Again." Originally written for the annual Woody Guthrie tribute in Austin, Slaid decided to record the track after seeing the Wilco/Billy Bragg tribute to Woody Guthrie. It's a great track and wonderful to hear new material from a great songwriter like Woody Guthrie.
This album is absolutely amazing. It's 10 tracks of absolutely brilliant music. It's more than folk, it's real stories told by real people, it's a testament to life and the human spirit. It's something you could only gather from such tales of tragedy. This is a must listen for anyone. Slaid Cleaves will hopefully be around for a long time and do more wonderful music like this. Enjoy the record, it won't be hard.
Samuel Barker is Senior Editor. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.