Preview Ghost On The Car Radio by Slaid Cleaves.
Ghost On The Car Radio by Slaid Cleaves
Slaid Cleaves is reflective and grateful for his career. He recently commented about his 2000 break through album Broke Down that “it took me from total obscurity to relative obscurity!’ I think his subsequent lack of commercial success makes him more of treasure and my advice is that you should hold him tight. He’s also grateful that he makes a living and pursues something that he loves. Ghost On The Car Radio is a fine release and, yes folks, this is Americana. No sign of an ‘Alt’, ‘Punk’ or mercifully a banjo: just some exceptional tunes, thoughtful lyrics that narrow the distance between hope and reality and maybe a little Country Rock.
All the words are endless interesting as Cleaves swings between politics ("Drunken Barbers Hands"), a life of toil but still struggling ("Take Home Pay"), cars ("Primer Gray") and a changing economic landscape and its affect on families ("Hickory"). In each song there is a complete story and often of a man with struggles and simpler, probably older, pleasures. This is how Cleaves has rolled since he started recording and that Bruce Springsteen working class polemic against "the man" permeates throughout.
As a man who likes a car then his rueful reflection of a small garage being overtaken by the times and bigger retail outfits hits the spot. "Little Guys" is a picture anyone can recognize in small town America and talks of the skills and the people it no longer needs.
Throughout a band with a great feel accompanies Cleaves – various guitars, bass and insistent drums keeping that acoustic rock feel and he can nail a melody. "So Good To Me" approaches pop with its tune and harmonies and a neat thank you to his partner who "through thick and thin you stay, all through my darkest days" has been by his side. Whilst we’re being romantic "To Be Held" continues the theme and heartfelt struggles of the heart come to the fore.
"Old Guard" is a 1950/60’s traditional Country song with a even a reference to George Jones. Sadly he fails to keep to the obligatory themes of cheatin’, drinkin’ and heartbreak. However I’m relieved to report a sense of loss is at the heart of the song and it’s about a group of older men feeling out of step with a younger crowd in a bar with a jukebox that allows them to play louder and more recent stuff. A beautiful pastiche; with a walking bass line.
"I’m not an innovator. I’m more of a keeper of the flame." That’ll do for me. This is better than Broke Down and how many artists are producing better stuff nearly two decades on?