I had the chance to see one of my favorite Americana singer/songwriters in an intimate nightclub this year here, in North Carolina. The last time I saw him perform, I was one of 50,000+ people at Merlefest in April 2006. This time, I was one of under 100. Music fanatics understand, that seeing an artist you love in an environment like this is an experience that cannot be beat.
Rod Picott opened, and Slaid tore down the house with nothing but his voice, an acoustic guitar and support from the occasional lap steel, electric guitar or electric piano. He’s a true performer who makes you feel like you’re in his living room with a bunch of friends. He sets up each song with the history of what inspired it’s writing or witty anecdotes. This talent is something that’s hard to find in live performance today, but the most impressive thing about Slaid Cleaves are the stories he tells through his songs.
In a world where the song is secondary to the gloss, songwriters like Slaid Cleaves are a Godsend. Sure he can write a great melody, and has a great voice, but what separates him is attention to detail. His words are written with great care, and the craftsmanship involved is obvious. And did I mention that he can yodel?
Slaid also feels passionately about sharing great songwriters with others. His latest album Unsung is a collection of songs written by unknown songwriters he has met along the path of his career, and it’s a must hear. Rhapsody has 4 of his full-length albums available, and his Holiday EP. You can check them out at his Rhapsody artist page.
Much to my delight, Slaid sent me an email after I requested a celebrity playlist from him. Here’s some of what it said:
"A few weeks ago Rod Picott said you were collecting playlists. I put
my iPod on shuffle while I was cleaning the bathroom yesterday,
and here’s what it came up with":
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1. Hazel Dicken & Alice Gerrard “Can’t You Hear Me Calling” – Pioneering Women of Bluegrass
2. Jan Smith “Depend On My Love” – 29 Dances
3. Bill Neely “Rock ‘n Roll Baby” – Austin’s Original Singer-Songwriter
4. Everly Brothers “Walk Right Back” – All-Time Original Hits
5. Jimmy Martin “Widow Maker” – Truck Driver’s Boogie: Big Rig Hits vol. 1
6. Mahalia Jackson “When the Saints Go Marching In” – The World’s Greatest Gospel Singer
7. AC/DC “Riff Raff” – Powerage
8. Eliza Gilkyson “Jedidiah” – Paradise Hotel
9.Laurent Petitgand “Zirkusmusik” – Wings of Desire (soundtrack)
10. Hank Williams “(I Heard That) Lonesome Whistle Blow” – The Complete Hank Williams
11. The River Hymn “The Band” – Across the Great Divide
12. Mint Juleps “Jesus Gave Me Water” – Round Our Way
13. Josh Ritter “Other Side” – Golden Age of Radio
14. Buck Owens “Love’s Gonna Live Here Again” – The Buck Owens
15. Lucinda Williams “Greenville” – Car Wheels on a Gravel Road
(early mix – Gurf Morlix producer)