Sorrow & Smoke – Live at the Horseshoe Lounge (Music Road)
Reviewed by Jim Caligiuri, Fri., Sept. 2, 2011
Slaid CleavesSorrow & Smoke – Live at the Horseshoe Lounge (Music Road)
Of all the singer-songwriters to come out of Texas in the past 20 years, few if any approach the lyrical and melodic consistency of Slaid Cleaves. Sorrow & Smoke, a 2-CD set, is further evidence of his ability to capture glimpses of workaday American life in a concise yet absorbing manner, this time in front of an audience. Cleaves chose to record at the Horseshoe Lounge, a South Austin dive that doesn't ordinarily have live music, because he hoped the unusual setting would inspire magic as well as it providing the title of one his songs. In a trio setting including lead guitarist Michael O'Connor and Oliver Steck on accordion, trumpet, and harmonica, Cleaves' songs still breathe with surprising clarity, plus his jovial nature shines through on the between-song banter and audience interaction. Eighteen of the 21 tunes are originals, but Karen Poston's mournful "Lydia" and a two-song tribute to "mentor and hero" Don Walser, wherein Cleaves shows off his yodeling skills, also exhibit his talent. Besides being a formidable live set, Sorrow & Smoke serves as a well-thought-out best-of, from "Broke Down" to "One Good Year." It's sure to be a fan favorite and a terrific starting point for the uninitiated.