Album Review: Slaid Cleaves — Sorrow & Smoke: Live at the Horseshoe Lounge
Slaid Cleaves is, as he jokes during some between-songs banter, a “naturalized Texan” who migrated from New England two decades ago and was, at one point, too nervous to enter Austin’s famous Horseshoe Lounge. It’s only fitting, then, that Cleaves, now a veteran of the Texas music scene, would choose to record Sorrow and Smoke, his first live album, at that venue.
The two-disc set covers most of Cleaves’ career to date, from earlier material like “Key Chain” from 1992 album Life’s Other Side to his best-known song, “Broke Down,” to a handful of songs from his most recent studio release, Everything You Love Will Be Taken Away. As a songwriter, Cleaves deftly navigates between pathos and gentle humor, best exemplified when he transitions from a stunning portrayal of grief in “Green Mountains and Me” to the wry “Horses,” in which the down on his luck protagonist with several ex-wives ruefully states “If it weren’t for horses and divorces/I’d be a lot better off today.”
“Breakfast in Hell,” the tragic—though amazingly catchy, it must be said—story of logger Sandy Gray is a high point of the record, a seven minute epic that includes an accordion interlude from Oliver Steck and audience participation as the chanting logging crew. Most of the record consists of material Cleaves either penned or recorded on previous albums, but when he does bust out his take on a pair of Don Walser covers (“Rolling Stone from Texas” and “Texas Top Hand”), showing off some impressive yodeling chops, it’s a treat. Cleaves closes with a new gospel song, “Go for the Gold;” though it sounds as though the arrangement could still use a bit of refining, it’s lyrically sharp, and might just be the only country song to reference Sikhism.
The album is a treat for longtime Cleaves fans and a solid collection of material for those who want to explore more of his music. Put a cold one on the beer mat that comes in the CD package, crank up the stereo, and it’ll almost feel like you’re at the show, holding down a barstool at the Horseshoe.
- Elizabeth Linder: I love sitting by a bond fire with my husband making s'mores and drinking hot chocolate.
- Jeremy Dylan: One might say that a good way to pay tribute to RCA Studio a would be to not demolish it …
- willard willams: Oct. 10, as that is our wedding anniversary. Will be 50 years and I still remember.
- Both Kinds of Music: What an excellent team-up.
- Pam Wallace: A day like yesterday,...driving through Ohio countryside with leaves beginning to turn and cows lying in the pastures because every …
- Jackie Lester: My favorite part of autumn is seeing wooly bear caterpillars!
- Mike harris: Love fall with the warm glow of the sun and all the beautiful fall colors
- Richrd Simerson: Love good old bluegrass music
- Six String Richie: Studio A will be replaced with a dog park, condos and restaurants. Gentrification at it's finest.
- Denise Vernon: Full moon with smell of leaves burning.