Slaid Cleaves

REVIEW: Slaid Cleaves “Together Through the Dark”


Said Cleaves has a new album, Together Through the Dark, produced by Scrappy Jud Newcomb, and mostly performed by Slaid, Scrappy Jud, and Pat Manske.

This album is just truly great.  Slaid Cleaves is a songwriter’s songwriter, raising the bar with intensely grabbing opening lines like this one that launches the album:  “Dark clouds gather on the Western range, this time it feels like more than just another cold, hard rain.  Rivers risin’ over old flood lines, here come the prophets calling out the end of time.” This is “Through the Dark, and a co-write with Cleaves’ long time collaborator and compadre, Rod Picott. A storm is brewing.

“Puncher’s Chance” is about giving up bar fights, and the reflection on that from a few years down the line: “I lit a candle for the lost and lonely, and I stepped out into the night, when I heard a voice call out my name from the under the streetlamp light.  I knew him from my barroom days — those were rough and rowdy times — just two old men taking ’bout a life long left behind.”  And whew.  We’re listening, kicked back and listening.

“Next Heartbreak” is chilling:  “I saw it coming’ but it came down hard as a stone.  Laid my brother down in his grave, we had one last whiskey over his bones.  He was a fighter but he knew he was facing the end.  Hope I’m as brave when it comes my time…”  Wow.  “I count my blessings and I carry on until the next heartbreak.”  This is where it’s at.  Mortality.It almost does a disservice to songs like this to write about them and try to pin them down.  You have to listen.

“Second Hand” was co-written with Adam Carroll and is a lament about how much we internalize “that so much of who I am today, I just picked up second hand,” including bad habits from our parents and those around us.  All set up tastefully over a loping beat.

“Sparrow” is another co-write with Rod Picott– Slaid performs this one alone and it’s pretty and sweet… “a hint of her perfume haunting the room, hiding in the shadows of this place.”

Slaid Cleaves writes songs that are definitely “about something.” All the songs are gentle, thoughtful and probe the depths of our fears and realizations in ways we didn’t ask them to, but then, as they unfold, we end up welcoming the experience.  Find the music here:

The album was produced by Scrappy Jud Newcomb, recorded by Pat Manske at The Zone, in Dripping Springs, Texas, and mixed by Chaos Theory with Slaid Cleaves.  It was mastered by Alex McCollough at True East Mastering, Nashville, Tennessee with album art by Genevieve Paradis.

Musicians on the album are Slaid Cleaves on lead vocals, acoustic guitar and harmonica; Pat Manske on drums and percussion; Scrappy Jud Newcomb on electric and acoustic guitars, bass guitar, and Hammond B-3 organ; and harmony vocals by Robyn Ludwick.

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