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Slaid Cleaves

Broke Down – 2000 (Philo/Rounder)

Reviewed by Brian Wahlert

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CDs by Slaid Cleaves

Slaid Cleaves takes drugs for a living. No, seriously. "I'm a human guineapig. A lab rat," he writes on his web site. By night, though, he writes, sings and plays a wonderful blend of country, folk and bluegrass that sometimes sounds like a stripped-down, less rocking version of Whiskeytown but ultimately is a sound all his own.

This album - his second for Philo and fifth overall - contains 10 songs ranging from spare dirges ("Cold and Lonely") to bluegrass (Del McCoury's"I Feel the Blues Moving In") to more standard Americana/country ("Horseshoe Lounge"). Producer and multi-instrumentalist Gurf Morlix, famous for his work with Lucinda Williams and Robert Earl Keen, deserves much of the credit for the album's acoustic-guitar-driven sound.

What makes this album great, however, is Cleaves' creative lyrics and colorful portrayal of down-and-out characters who have been passed over in life. "The Bible says you'll reap what you sow. I gave everything I had, gotnothing left to show." If this album gets half the success it deserves, Cleaves won't need his day job much longer.