2006-09-25 : Music blogging: Dog songs 2
I've seen Slaid Cleaves twice. The first time was the time he shared billing with Tracy Grammer and Jim Henry, at Coffee and Soul a few years ago; the second time was at the Iron Horse in Northampton just last winter.
The first time, he interrupted his set to get the house lights on so that he could see us, instead of feeling like it was just him and his band singing alone in his bedroom; then again later to get the mikes cut, so we could hear what they really sounded like; then a third time because he'd been touring with Tracy Grammer and Jim Henry all this time but he'd never gotten to play with them, and would we mind if he invited them out? (We wouldn't.) Meg was a fan of his already. I'd never heard him before, and I liked his music just fine but even more I was struck by his total and uncalculated generosity as a performer. He shared himself, his music, and his stage, openly and freely and without any self-effacement or selfconsciousness at all.
He cut the mikes and they sang Woodie Guthrie songs unamplified and I could've stayed there forever.
The second time, he was coming down with a cold and he was exhausted. He'd run out of cash to bring his band on tour with him so he was on stage by himself, and his voice was ragged, and one time he went an extra time around on his guitar to tell us that man, he wished he could give some band member or other a solo just now and give his voice a rest. He told us stories about his worst gigs, a time he finished a show out on the sidewalk because the bar owner wouldn't let him turn off the TV. He didn't yodel at all. He closed with a group sing:
'Tis the song, the sigh of the weary
Hard times, hard times,
Come again no more
Many days you have lingered
Around my cabin door;
Oh hard times come again no more.
And it was exactly the same generosity.
He doesn't really sing Dogs songs, except maybe two:
"This Morning I Am Born Again" (words by Woodie Guthrie, music by Slaid Cleaves) and "Cold and Lonely," both from his 2000 album Broke Down. Rather than put up an mp3 of the latter, I'll point you to his audio/video page where you can download the video. Maybe you could make a case for "Sinner's Prayer." But mostly his songs are too modern in sensibility, too much about alienation and heartache (even the fun ones are sad; the sad ones are MAN ALIVE sad) and not enough about God and death.
If you like those couple songs, though, buy the album. If you like that album, buy the others. I own Broke Down, Wishbones (the title track of which is one of my man alive sad favorites) and Unsung, and it's only a matter of time until I pick up the earlier ones.
But more, if you get a chance to see him live, do. As much as I like his albums, they don't quite do him justice. See, he's a yodeler, and he's a good one, and in person you can hear it in his voice. Little lively hooks at the ends of the lines that - for whatever reason - don't survive in the studio. Too bad, too.
If you represent Slaid Cleaves and you'd rather I take down the mp3, just email me and I will at once.
1. On 2006-09-25, David Coulter said:
2. On 2006-09-26, Ben Lehman said:
3. On 2006-09-26, sammy said:
4. On 2006-09-26, Meguey said:
5. On 2006-09-26, Vincent said:
6. On 2006-09-26, Dave Y said:
7. On 2006-09-26, David Coulter said:
8. On 2006-09-26, Clinton R. Nixon said:
9. On 2006-09-26, Meguey said:
10. On 2006-09-26, Meguey said:
11. On 2006-09-27, Matt S said:
12. On 2006-09-27, Vincent said:
13. On 2006-09-27, Vincent said:
14. On 2006-09-27, NinJ said:
15. On 2006-09-27, Matt S said:
16. On 2006-10-02, nathan said: