Slaid Cleaves

Live Review | Henry Boons, Wakefield | Review by Allan Wilkinson

On tour to promote his first official live release Sorrow and Smoke: Live at the Horseshoe Lounge (2011), Austin-based Slaid Cleaves created an easy going rapport with the audience tonight at Henry Boons in Wakefield.  Following a lovely, if somewhat short set by York-based Holly Taymar and Chris Bilton, the Maine-born singer-songwriter, surrounded by photographs of some of his country’s jazz greats, performed a couple of relaxed sets of songs covering the bulk of his fourteen-year career thus far. With trademark youthful vocals and contrasting mature life experience, Slaid performed much of the live album, which in turn reflected his five studio albums to date, from his most recent Everything You Love Will be Taken Away (2009); “Hard to Believe”, “Cry”, “Green Mountains of Me” and “Twistin’”, to older songs such as “Quick as Dreams”, “Drinkin’ Days” and “Below” from his Wishbones (2004) period.  With an impressive repertoire of self-penned songs, some written in collaboration with other notable writers such as childhood friend Rod Picott, exemplified in such songs as “Black T Shirt” and the hugely popular “Broke Down”, Slaid referenced another major influence in Woody Guthrie, opening his second set with his interpretation of one of Woody’s dustbowl ballads, “I Ain’t Got No Home”.  Despite being born and raised in the north, Slaid has not only become an honorary Texan, drinking whatever they have in the water down there to become an extraordinarily good songwriter in the Austin tradition, but has also inherited some of that southern blue yodelling, which he demonstrated tonight with a couple of Don Walser songs, “Texas Top Hand” and “Rolling Stone from Texas”.   Half-jokingly referencing the last bus, concerned for those in the audience who might have to walk home, Slaid concluded his second set relatively early with a new song, the optimistic “Go for the Gold” before returning to the stage for a well-deserved encore, which featured an older song from his Broke Down (2000) period, “Key Chain”.  Slaid Cleaves continues his current Autumn UK tour, concluding with a sold out appearance at The Green Note in London on Oct 4.