Slaid Cleaves Biography

Richard Slaid Cleaves, 9 June 1964, Berwick, Maine, USA. Cleaves’ stark vignettes of desperate people are far from the designer country of the new millennium, and his influences are Woody Guthrie (Cleaves put music to his verse, ‘This Morning I Am Born Again’) and Hank Williams, for whom he recorded a tribute song, ‘29’.

Cleaves performed in local bands in his home town, but thought he might turn professional after turning to busking to raise some money while studying in Cork, Eire in the mid-80s. He obtained a degree in English and Philosophy but preferred music, working with his brother and drummer, Mark Cousins, in the Moxie Men. They released the live cassettes, The Promise and Looks Good From The Road (later reissued by Rock Bottom Records). In 1991, Cleaves moved to Austin, Texas with his fiancée, Karen, and while there, released two albums of his own songs, Life’s Other Side and For The Brave And Free. In 1992, he won an award as the Best New Folk Songwriter at the Kerrville Folk Festival.

Cleaves’ first album for Philo Records, No Angel Knows, did well on the Americana charts and he performed European concerts. When not working, he was a subject for medical research into new drugs. His breakthrough album, 2000’s Broke Down was, in his own words, ‘songs about hard times’, with the title track relating to a couple he knew while playing in Maine. The belated follow-up Wishbones was another fine effort and a more upbeat offering than its predecessor. His compadre, Ray Wylie Hubbard, says of him, ‘He’s a great lyricist because he takes time to make sure that every word counts.’

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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