Slaid Cleaves Broke Down

Slaid Cleaves (yes, that's his real name) deftly mixes folk and country in a gently rocking way. He's a smart, literate writer whose work is reminiscent of Ryan Adam's gentler side, Fred Eaglesmith's earlier songs, or even some of label-mate Ray Wylie Hubbard's compositions. The title track deals with the psychic flotsam from the wreckage of a failed love, and is solid and full of humanity. Like most of the songs, it's filled with working folks who are neither ignorant nor simple, and are mostly just trying to figure out what the hell is going on while they survive from day to day and put food on the table. The subtle backing throughout, from the skill full hands of folks like Gurf Morlix, who also produced, and Ian McLagan is reminiscent of one of McLagan's old mates, Ronnie Lane - it has the same humanity and dignity. Growing up in Maine helps bring verisimilitude to "Breakfast In Hell," the story of loggers working near Georgian Bay, that owes a partial debt to traditional ballads like "John Henry." Near the end, he pulls a Bragg & Wilco with "This Morning I Am Born Again," by setting some Woody Guthrie lyrics to his own melody - the result is not a little Dylan-ish. He closes the disc with a gospel tinged Del McCoury cover, "I Feel The Blues Moving In." (Philo)