Slaid Cleaves is a veteran songwriter recognized for homespun lyrics that have been sewing Texas roots for the past two decades. The singer-songwriter's 20-year career takes a refreshingly mature turn this month with the release of Still Fighting the War, a collection of well-crafted songs released Tuesday.
The new album marks a departure from Cleaves' more lighthearted sing-along staples — think "Horseshoe Lounge" and "Flowered Dresses" — of albums past. What began as a title track four years in the making metamorphosed into a larger metaphor for the album as a whole.
As Cleaves told USA Today, "As I was putting together all these songs that I had recorded, this song ["Still Fighting the War"] was one of the strongest, and I saw a little bit of a theme," he said. "They're songs about perseverance and holding your head up through hard times."
While the album contains what Cleaves characterizes as a more varied set of songs than his previous releases, the title track's deftness is complemented by lighthearted tracks that harken back to earlier Cleaves' releases. Standouts include the make-you-chuckle "Texas Love Song" and heartfelt, melodic tunes "Without Her" and "Voice of Midnight."
You'll notice familiar Texas voices mixed in with Cleaves' signature story-telling vocals: Jimmy LaFave, Terri Hendrix and Eliza Gilkyson all lend their talents to the album.
The album, his first since 2011’s Sorrow & Smoke: Live at the Horseshoe Lounge, has Cleaves on the road full-time for promotion. He played a sold-out show on Friday at the Cactus Café and celebrates the official release with a free appearance at Austin's Waterloo Records on Tuesday, June 18 at 5 p.m. before heading to a gig in New Braunfels. From there, Cleaves will embark on a summer-long cross-country tour.
Still Fighting the War is available now; download the title track and proceeds will benefit Operation Homefront.