We could not be more excited to have Slaid Cleaves join us for the Houston Conference next week. It’s just one of the reasons we hope you’ll meet us there.
There’s plenty of eye-rolling when it comes to American country and folk music, mainly because so much of what used to constitute its storytelling now seems untrue. Songs about rust and horses and top hands and tree yodelers—this used to be far-reaching content; it has since shrunken into American oblivion, re-visited mainly in nichey beer bars by minor players. For anyone other than the Americana devotees, country songs consist, at best, of naïve nostalgia about “simpler times”, and at worst, of abject denial about who we are. And perhaps it is true.
Another gem, “Sinner’s Prayer,” from American songwriter Slaid Cleaves. Despite the dated intro with “For the Love of the Song” you get a deeply succinct (and awfully relatable!) look behind what prompted the writing:
When people see me on the street
They think they see an honest man
They don’t know what lies beneath
But some of them would understand
They know the soul and what it hides
You sometimes see it in their eyes
A guilty man where a child once stood
I’m not living like I should
This song, like any and all in the Slaid Cleaves discography, is replete with the human experience. It isn’t just for Americana charm that Cleaves, the harrowed Mainer-turned-Texan, sings about the sullied pawns and railroads, and old-time bars, and Old Milwaukee and 32s. He conjures old-time images to recover an old-time predicament: namely, that our lives are often known and defined by their stripping effects, by the things we have taken from us, and the things that don’t go according to plan because we change (his newest album, entitled Everything You Love Will Be Taken Away, says as much). Don’t get the impression from the arrangement and instrumentation that his songs are nostalgic–they may be sad country songs, but they also aren’t. His songwriting is much more than that, and his voice is purer (Live at the Horseshoe is a testament to this). Their scope isn’t limited to any place but the human heart–of our struggles in the face of death, “waiting for real life to start,” our pursuit of and longing for reprieve.
If you want more Slaid, well, start with these, and then listen to the Breakout on American Music, where he sits front-and-center:
2) “One Good Year”
3) “Broke Down“
4) “Black T Shirt“
5) “No Angel Knows“
Lest all the anti-New-Years-resolutions sentiment come across as pure party-poopery, I give you four songs in keeping with the holiday, two of which are downright joyful:
1. The best of all-time, without question – sorry, Bono – is The Zombies’ “This Will Be Our Year”, covered here by The Avett Brothers:
2. I didn’t think it was possible, but Slaid Cleaves’ prayerful (and considerably more Mbird-friendly) “One Good Year” gives The Zombies a run for their money, sort of the peccator to their justus:
3. Let’s face it though – the aforementioned “New Years Day” from U2 is pretty darn great. Great…
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