Slaid Cleaves leaves his mark
Slaid Cleaves could be described as being in the Steve Earle School of Country. He's got a similarly styled voice, though less gritty. And Cleaves, a former Maine resident, who moved to Austin about a decade ago, also has a slew of story songs.
No need to worry that CLeaves is merely a clone without his own reserve of talent.
Far from it.
Still touring behind his very strong "Broke Down" release of two years ago on Philo/Rounder, Cleaves offered one very strong show of almost two hours in two sets. For starters, his voice carries each and every song with most being more on the uptempo side. But even on slower songs, Cleaves possesses enough timbre to do the job.
Cleaves excells in telling stories whether about the death of his friend in "29," where he plaintively asks "When you died at 29/you heard the voice of angels/but did you hear the lonesome cries of the ones you left behind."
Cleaves has a bunch of downer songs, but that did not make for a downer of an evening. He has a bit of a wry sense of humor, indicating that his late friend had some things in common with Hank Williams, like dying at the same age.
Williams is an influence on Cleaves and turned in fine covers of Williams and others. He does not go by the numbers on any song.
Cleaves was capably backed by a three-piece unit, including two New England residents, who nly very occasionally play with him, but Bruce Derr on steel and guitar and Kevin Guyer on upright bass did a good job as did fiddler Eleanor Whitmore.
Karen Poston, better known as a drummer in Austin, opened the show with two guitarists in an acoustic-flavored country outing. Poston's singing was superior to that on her album, "Real Bad." She probably could use more polish, but she turned in a good performance on a stellar night of music.