Sorrow & Smoke: Live at the Horseshoe Lounge
Music Road Records
Slaid Cleaves came to national attention with 2000’s Broke Down. With true-life dramas such as “Breakfast in Hell” or the ode to quiet desperation that is “One Good Year,” Cleaves’ brand of country/folk moved him from coffee-house favorite to NPR and a year-end best of list on, among others, No Depression. In years since he’s put out album after album of songwriting magic, so now’s the time for a live album, and it’s a gem. Recorded at Austin’s Horseshoe Lounge, Cleaves, with Michael O’Connor on guitar and Oliver Steck on simply wonderful accordion, trumpet, and harmonica, this album is a great look at the prowess of his art.
Cleaves writes songs that anyone can relate to, a` la Willie or fellow Texan Guy Clark. Everyone knows the local badass in a “Black T Shirt” — “You know you’re gonna pay for the things that you do/ You know what you put your Mama through.” “Hard To Believe” looks at the world from the eyes of one resigned to life as it turned out to be, far different from what he dreamed in younger days. Slaid Cleaves writes human songs about real people, and while he’s not as well known as some, it isn’t from lack of talent. Perhaps Sorrow & Smoke will bring in new listeners, but until then, enjoy this two-disc collection of some of the finest songs you’ll ever hear.
Slaid Cleaves: www.slaidcleaves.com