Published Jan 01, 2006Considered for some time now to be one of the most underrated American singer-songwriters, Cleaves latest states that case more emphatically than ever before. Although originally from Maine, since relocating to Texas, Cleaves has taken up the torch from that states legendary figures, from Guy Clark to Steve Earle. But while he already seems destined to become a cult figure in his own right among fellow singer-songwriters, everything about Wishbones suggests that Cleaves has put all hes got into reaching a wider audience. Thats not to suggest theres anything mainstream about the sound. To the contrary, producer/guitarist Gurf Morlix has created a slick-but-soulful vibe comparable to his previous work with Lucinda Williams, with the occasional reference to Daniel Lanois signature work with Bob Dylan. Placed within such a context, Cleaves smoky vocals and hard-luck stories take proper flight, best heard in the contrasting moods of "Drinkin Days and "Sinners Prayer. Whether this album proves to be Cleaves own Car Wheels On A Gravel Road remains to be seen. But it surely is the best introduction to his art for the uninitiated, and an early contender for one of the best alt-country releases of the year.