Slaid Cleaves - Broke Down
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Broke Down (Philo/Rounder, 2000)

Slaid Cleaves

Reviewed by Brian Wahlert

Slaid Cleaves takes drugs for a living. No, seriously. "I'm a human guineapig. A lab rat," he writes on his web site. By night, though, he writes, sings and plays a wonderful blend of country, folk and bluegrass that sometimes sounds like a stripped-down, less rocking version of Whiskeytown but ultimately is a sound all his own.

This album - his second for Philo and fifth overall - contains 10 songs ranging from spare dirges ("Cold and Lonely") to bluegrass (Del McCoury's"I Feel the Blues Moving In") to more standard Americana/country ("Horseshoe Lounge"). Producer and multi-instrumentalist Gurf Morlix, famous for his work with Lucinda Williams and Robert Earl Keen, deserves much of the credit for the album's acoustic-guitar-driven sound.

What makes this album great, however, is Cleaves' creative lyrics and colorful portrayal of down-and-out characters who have been passed over in life. "The Bible says you'll reap what you sow. I gave everything I had, gotnothing left to show." If this album gets half the success it deserves, Cleaves won't need his day job much longer.

CDs by Slaid Cleaves

Ghost on the Car Radio, 2017 Still Fighting the War, 2013 Sorrow and Smoke - Live at the Horseshoe Lounge, 2011 Everything You Love Will Be Taken Away, 2009

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