WISHBONES (Philo/Rounder) Slaid Cleaves
Damn hard to be a young Texas legend when you're from Round Pond, Maine. Chances are mighty slim.
But Slaid's done it. The New York Times calls him "One of the finest singer songwriters from Texas." He is #1 on the Americana Chart at this writing. He also an Austin Music Awards winner. He is the grand and deserving exception to a lot of rules. This is his third national release, and the most robust and pumped up to date. The last two went to #1 on the Americana Chart, and the first one went to #2. Alongside the artist, producer Gurf Morlix has turned in his trademark sterling job on this record, with many great tracks of guitars, bass and pedal steel.
It's getting to be where some of my favorite drinking songs are by people and about characters who quit drinking, usually with adequate reason. That certainly includes the co-write here with Karen Poston, "Drinkin' Days." I like the part where the singer who says "my drinkin' days are over, but I'm still trouble bound" tips his hat to his bar pals: "My buddies say they're gonna miss me, they can go to hell." That song's just full of good lines, like "I never knew what time it was, till closing time came around" and two sweet dovetailed solos on pedal steel and guitar by Gurf Morlix, that cat is the man, damn.
In "Horses and Divorces" (the comical rhyme that inspired the Annie Gallup song "Skinny Arms"--see our review last month) our hero does some mighty good yodeling, just one of many tricks up his sleeve. But above all it's consistently about great songs, and nothing clunks the whole record through. The single and album title co-write with the great Ray Wylie Hubbard is a classic that really sets the listener up to get mowed down by "Road Too Long." Slaid does a great song by his buddy Rod Picott, "Tiger Tom Dixon," and co-wrote one with him to boot, "Sinner's Prayer." (see our review of Rod's most recent CD)
We think Wishbones is great, and that you should buy it. Unquestionably one of the finest American troubadours. FG