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MUSIC: Cleaves Brings Texas Heat to Fall River

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

 

Slaid Cleaves brought some Texas hospitality to Fall River, but left the honky-tonk down south.

On a muggy evening in late June, Austin singer-storyteller Slaid Cleaves brought a taste of Texas folk to the Narrows Center. Cleaves is touring in support of his recent release, Still Fighting the War, an album breaking out all over mainstream media. It’s well-deserved; under the lights of the Braga Bridge, in an old rusty Fall River factory, his songs are very much at home.

Accompanied by talented mandolin/fiddler ChoJo Jacques, Portland, Maine native Cleaves opened with “Down at the Horseshoe Lounge,” a classic country-western sob story written after a few too many. His lyrics, however, are a few steps up from honky-tonk…

“So here’s to missed beginnings and things that never start
For these are the ghosts that run around in my heart
When I see that where I’m going isn’t where I want to be
I get the urge to look you up, see if you would come meet me

Were you the one who faltered
Was I the one who strayed
Maybe God left us out of the plans he made”

Among the best

His songwriting ranks among the best American artists, up there with Dylan, Steve Earle, and his childhood hero Bruce Springsteen. He is a troubadour, influenced heavily by Woody Guthrie, Hank Williams and Texas legend, Don Walser. Known in Texas as “Gods own yodeler,” Walser inspired Cleaves, who wooed those assembled with his yodeling talent on the classic “Rolling Stone from Texas.”

The poignant lyrics of the title song of the new album draw needed attention to the plight of recent war vets. (Note: Proceeds from the sale of Still Fighting the War go to Operation Homefront.)

“Men go off to war for a hundred reasons
But they all come home with the same demons
Some you can keep at bay for a while
And some will pin you to the floor
You’ve been home for a coupla years now buddy
But you’re still fighting the war”

Joking about his few upbeat songs, the emphasis was on the gritty stories of those who struggle and the struggles we all face. On Lydia, he embraces the suffering of a broken widow who lost both a husband and a son to the coalmines:

“She watched them pull him from the hole,
The overalls he wore were blackened by the smoke,
Lydie twice had had this dream and twice it had come true.
And when she saw his father's boots she knew.”

His songs are straightforward, his lyrics uncomplicated, his message convincing. I’ve noted before that a great artist leaves you wanting more, Slaid Cleaves leaves me wanting to road trip it to Texas, even in the summer heat!

The only problem with this show–some empty seats–no faulting anyone here, it’s easy to fix! The Narrows Center consistently brings top roots/rock/Americana acts to southern New England. And they promise that AC will ready in August–let’s hope that means an expanded summer line-up in the future.

The show was simulcast on Martha’s Vineyard radio WMVY. It should be archived soon–Click here to for other Narrows shows. Slaid Cleaves is an alt-country original–he tours endlessly and plays several more New England dates in July–Click here for his complete schedule.

 

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