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Slaid Cleaves Ghost on the Car Radio

Slaid Cleaves — Ghost on the Car Radio (June 23, 2017)

     Slaid Cleaves — Ghost on the Car Radio (June 23, 2017)
≡★≡   Americana’s best kept secret steps out of the shadows. Austin by way of Maine singer~songwriter whose rootsy songs have both a folk and honky~tonk feel to them.
Birth name: Richard Slaid Cleaves
Born: June 9, 1964, Washington, D.C., United St
Origin: Berwick, ME /Raised in South Berwick, Maine and Round Pond, Maine
Location: Wimberley, Texas
Recording Location: Churchhouse, East Austin, Texas
Album release: June 23, 2017
Record Label: Candy House Media / Continental Record Services
Duration:     38:55
01. Already Gone      3:03
02. Drunken Barber’s Hand      2:41
03. If I Had a Heart      3:47
04. Little Guys      3:02
05. Primer Gray      3:59
06. Hickory      3:39
07. Take Home Pay      2:52
08. The Old Guard      3:45
09. So Good to Me      3:17
10. To Be Held      3:18
11. Still Be Mine      3:19
12. Junkyard      2:14
Written by:
★   Slaid Cleaves     1, 3, 9, 10
★   Slaid Cleaves / Rod Picott     2, 5, 7, 12
★   Slaid Cleaves / Karen Poston     4
★   Slaid Cleaves / Nathan Hamilton     6
★   Slaid Cleaves / Jeff Elliott / Mike Morgan     8
★   Slaid Cleaves / Graham Weber     11
★   David Boyle Engineer, Keyboards
★   John Chipman Drums, Percussion
★   Karen Cleaves Cover Art Concept, Photography
★   Slaid Cleaves Composer
★   Jeff Elliott Composer
★   Nathan Hamilton Composer
★   Chojo Jacques Fiddle, Mandolin
★   Harmoni Kelley Guitar (Bass), Vocals (Background)
★   Mike Morgan Composer
★   Jud Newcomb Guitar (Acoustic), Guitar (Electric), Producer, Vocal Harmony
★   Genevieve Paradis Cover Art
★   Rod Picott Composer
★   Karen Poston Composer
★   Fred Remmert Mastering, Mixing
★   Kevin Smith Bass (Upright)
★   Graham Weber Composer
★   Miles Zuniga Vocals
≡★≡   Texas~based Americana singer~songwriter Slaid Cleaves delivers a collection of world~weary yet defiant songs to help us all through these “interesting times.” Joseph Hudak of Rolling Stone writes: “Slaid Cleaves may be the Americana genre’s most under~appreciated songwriter. With a knack for giving breath to perpetually down~on~their~luck characters on albums like 2000’s excellent Broke Down, the Austin by way of Maine artist evokes writers from Guy Clark to Tom Petty, crafting detailed portraits of barflies, drifters and day laborers. On June 23rd, he releases his latest album, Ghost on the Car Radio, another collection of songs that reinforce Cleaves’ reputation as a master.
Joe Breen, Tue, Jun 20, 2017 / Score: ****
≡★≡   Slaid Cleaves’s biography is short and pithy: “Grew up in Maine. Lives in Texas. Writes songs. Makes records. Travels around. Tries to be good.”
≡★≡   His work, however, is more expressive. This is his first album since the excellent Still Fighting the War in 2013 and once again he hits all the right notes in these understated, instantly likeable everyday tales of life on the margins where people are all “scrapping for the dough~re~mi” (Take Home Pay), where big business rules (Little Guys), where time is running out (Junkyard, Already Gone), old age is calling (The Old Guard, If I Had a Heart) and where the world is going to hell in a handbasket (Drunken Barbers’ Hand).
≡★≡   Cleaves crafts these 12 stories with care and compassion; some might describe his characters as losers but he gives them dignity and voice and a bunch of great folk~rock tunes to boot.   ≡★≡   https://www.irishtimes.com/
Website: https://www.slaidcleaves.com/
Bandcamp: https://continentalrecordservices.bandcamp.com/album/ghost-on-the-car-radio
About Slaid Cleaves
≡★≡   The music of Austin~based singer/songwriter and guitarist Slaid Cleaves is rooted in country and traditional folk songs, but it is unusual enough to have held interest in a sea of singer/songwriters across the 1990s, 2000s, and 2010s. While he released a handful of recordings during the early ‘90s, he gained significant notice with No Angel Knows, which was released on Rounder’s Philo subsidiary in 1997. Joined by former Lucinda Williams guitarist Gurf Morlix, Cleaves combined his passion for folk songs, blues, and traditional country music into an amalgamation of styles known as Americana. Not surprisingly, the album rode high into the charts at Americana~formatted radio stations around the U.S. and Canada in 1997. The release set the tone for the rest of his career.
≡★≡   Prior to entering the music industry, Cleaves majored in English and philosophy at Tufts University in his native New England, and began playing music in garage rock bands while still in high school. While in college, he learned guitar, and later spent a summer in Ireland. He began busking on the streets in Cork, and that was the turning point when he decided to become a folksinger. At Tufts, he developed his guitar skills and studied the music of Woody Guthrie and Bruce Springsteen. He recalled that he had listened to the music of Guthrie, Carl Perkins, and Hank Williams as a child, so he went back into his parents’ attic to discover a treasure trove of albums.
≡★≡   After many years in Portland, Maine, he sought new mountains to climb, and found some of them after moving to Austin, Texas, in 1992. Despite the echelon of great singer/songwriters like Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Lucinda Williams, Robert Earl Keen, Guy Clark, and Joe Ely all centered around the Austin scene, Cleaves was able to make a name for himself there. In 1995, he recorded an independent album for Rock Bottom Records entitled Life’s Other Side. In 1996, he began his collaboration with Morlix, who liked Cleaves’ demo tape and ended up serving as producer for 1997’s No Angel Knows.
≡★≡   During the following decade, Cleaves released Broke Down (2000) and Wishbones (2004) prior to switching to Rounder proper for Unsung (2006). After signing with Jimmy LaFave and Kelcy Warren’s Music Road label, he issued Everything You Love Will Be Taken Away (2009, featuring liner notes from fan Stephen King), the two~disc Sorrow & Smoke: Live at the Horseshoe Lounge (2011), and Still Fighting the War (2013). The title song of the latter album was inspired by Craig F. Walker’s Pulitzer~winning photo essay regarding a soldier’s postwar civilian life. ~ Richard Skelly
♠♠•   “I think of songs as the whiskey of writing. Distilled down to the essence, powerful, concentrated, immediate. You can take it all in and really feel it in just seconds,” says Slaid Cleaves.
♠♠•   Now twenty~five years into his storied career, Cleaves’ songwriting has never been more potent than on his new album ‘Ghost on the Car Radio,’ out June 23.
♠♠•   The characters in Slaid Cleaves’ songs live in unglamorous reality. They work dead~end jobs, they run out of money, they grow old, they hold on to each other (or not), and they die. With an eye for the beauty in everyday life, he tells their stories, bringing a bit of empathy to their uncaring world.
♠♠•   On “Take Home Pay,” co~written with his longtime friend Rod Picott, Cleaves sings from the perspective of an aging manual laborer, fighting looming regret and sadness with stubborn resiliency (and opioid use).
1.)    On my way down to the pawn shop
A couple hundred is all I need
If I have to, I’ll hit the blood bank
I’m bone dry but I can always bleed
2.)   I got some Oxy to keep me moving
It slowly takes some things away
The only thing I was scared of losing
She packed up and left today
♠♠•   “As befits the times we live in, there’s a heavy dose of disappointment and disillusion there,” he says. “But somehow, through the worst of it, optimism remains, as if to say, “Yeah, things are pretty bad out there. But there’s still some good stuff if you know where to look.”
♠♠•   One place his characters find solace is with each other. Love songs are somewhat new songwriting territory for Cleaves. He approaches them less as a romantic gesture, and more as a world~weary appreciation of the one who’s seen seen you through thick and thin, as in the song “So Good to Me.”
1.)   Times were tough but we were tougher
Slings and arrows we did suffer
Scars, we’ve got a few, but who has not
2.)   Words of love and words of anger
Times of peace and times of danger
Never take for granted what we’ve got
♠♠•   Described as “terse, clear and heartfelt” (NPR Fresh Air), Cleaves speaks to timeless truths in his songs. “I’m not an innovator. I’m more of a keeper of the flame,” he says.
♠♠•   “Songs are so accessible. You don’t need an education to fully appreciate them, you don’t need a lot of leisure time to spend on them, you don’t need to learn the language of song. We seem to be born with it,” Cleaves explains. “With no preparation at all, they can bring you to tears in a matter of seconds. I remember being three or four and getting a lump in my throat when I heard Hank Williams sing.”
♠♠•   Now in his fifties, Cleaves admits that the songs don’t always come easy. “I do become jaded,” he says. “I wonder that, at this point in my career, I’ve had no real national success. No impact on the culture, as my heroes had. The music that I love just doesn’t seem relevant to mainstream culture. And I have no interest in what mainstream culture offers.”
♠♠•   “But those feelings are always quickly overcome by gratitude,” he explains. “I’m not complaining about my life. I’m making a decent living as a musician — what could be better than that?”
♠♠•   ‘Ghost on the Car Radio’ is Cleaves’ first release since 2013’s ‘Still Fighting the War,” which was praised as “one of the year’s best albums” by American Songwriter and “carefully crafted...songs about the struggles of the heart in hard times” by the Wall Street Journal. The New York Daily News called his music “a treasure hidden in plain sight,” while the Austin Chronicle declared, “there are few contemporaries that compare. He’s become a master craftsman on the order of Guy Clark and John Prine.”
≡   The Promise (1990 cassette)
≡   Looks Good From The Road (1991 cassette)
≡   The Promise/Looks Good From The Road (1998 CD release, plus three demo cuts, 1989)
≡   Life’s Other Side (1992 cassette, 1997 CD release)
≡   For The Brave And Free (1993 cassette, 2001 CD release, plus six unreleased demos 1993~1995)
≡   No Angel Knows (1997)
≡   Broke Down (2000)
≡   Holiday Sampler 5~track EP (2001)
≡   Wishbones (2004)
≡   Unsung (2006)
≡   Everything You Love Will Be Taken Away (2009)
≡   Sorrow & Smoke: Live At The Horseshoe Lounge (2011)
≡   Ghost on the Car Radio (2017)
Other contributions:
≡   Eklektikos Live (2005) — “Won’t Get Fooled Again”
≡   Dark River: Songs From the Civil War Era (2011) — “The Streets of Laredo”

Slaid Cleaves Ghost on the Car Radio


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