Slaid Cleaves Unsung

Having made his mark with his own songs, Austin, TX-based songwriter Slaid Cleaves’ latest is a collection of music composed by friends and colleagues. True, names like "Michael O’Connor” and "Steve Brooks” may not register beyond Cleaves’ stereo but that’s precisely the point of Unsung. From a noble effort comes a fantastic album thanks partially to some great writing but perhaps mostly to Cleaves’ compelling voice and his penchant for innovative folk instrumentation. Occasionally Cleaves comes across like Sarah Harmer’s male counterpart, as he does on O’Connor’s "Devil’s Lullaby” and Graham Weber’s "Oh Roberta.” Other times he’s just downright Slaid Cleaves, as he makes clear on a haunting version of Brooks’ "Everette” and Adam Carroll’s rustic "Racecar Joe.” There’s a hint of vintage Americana on "Call it Sleep,” but this is an anomaly. Cleaves may not be breaking ground on Unsung but in marrying obscure songs with his idiosyncratic sound, he’s giving contemporary alt-folk something fresh to reckon with. (Rounder)