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4.6 out of 5 stars
Everything You Love Will Be Taken Away
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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
Format: Audio CD
I've long posited on Amazon reviews that Slaid Cleaves is America's best working young folksinger and one of our finest interpretive singers. I considered his Unsung to be one of that year's best records. Yet, he has outdone himself on this album, "Everything You Love Will Be Taken Away."

This is Slaid's most political and least romantic album to date. The feel bad album title should be a dead giveaway right off, but the subject matter skirts into some bleak territory. "Hard To Believe" looks hard at a midwestern town that is slipping into oblivion as the factories shut down and the first person's romance leaves. And then he tucks in the barb "Here comes another blown up kid from over there, making the whole world safe for the millionaires" as the blue collar remainders head for the local watering hole. It's a part of the hidden bite to all the songs here; Slaid sings in a honey-rough voice that belies the sting of his words. Many of the folks in Slaid's song still live (as he has put in many of his albums) on the whiskey and smoke, but now they are wondering why they've been forced to swallow a "New coat of lies."

The mundane horror of life keeps popping up again and again, like the new widow on "Green Mountains and Me," who learns of her loss as she watches "your Daddy shakes the soldier's hands, frozen in the doorway where he stands." Or the horrific/deadpan delivery of the hanging that takes place on "Twistin'." Like the coal-mine widow he sang of on Broke Down's "Lydia," family loss is just a recurring dream that never seems to lose its sadness...and as he adds in "Dreams," the good dreams just disappoint you as they die.

Yet the music, downbeat as the descriptions sound, is thoroughly likable. The hopeful "Beautiful Thing" swings hard at the liars and manipulators in the belief that "the goodness of man" sees us through "the new dark ages." I got to see Slaid play most of these songs at Philadelphia's Tin Angel and his deft and casual delivery makes the bitterness of some of these songs easy to digest, and his hopeful demeanor carries through "Everything You Love Will Be Taken Away." The playing and production is pure Americana roots music - and it makes "Everything" Slaid Cleves' best to date in a career that already has several terrific albums on the player.
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on April 21, 2009
Format: Audio CD
Austin singer-songwriter Slaid Cleaves returns with an album of Americana whose quiet beauty belies lyrics of deep resignation. Just as Springsteen's anthems can obscure his bite, Cleaves presents his songs with an offhandedness that, on the surface, offsets the despondency of his words. The angst of love's vulnerability, the political, social and economic polarization of a new gilded age, and the human misery of war are just a few topics that lead Cleaves to close with the fatalistic proscription "live well and learn to die, soon in the dust you'll lie, with everything you know / Cruel death will not spare, the wise the young or fair, let's drain this cup of woe." The album is titled Everything You Love Will Be Taken Away, after all.

Cleaves sings with a warmth that infuses an element of hope in the crushing blows he delivers. Is there hard-won pain or only a clever couplet in singing "Every man is a myth, every woman a dream / Watch your little heart get crushed when the truth gets in between"? Is there bitterness or repudiation in "Here comes another blown up kid from over there / Making the whole world safe for the millionaires"? Probably a bit of each. The deftness with which he explicates characters in a perfectly framed, heartbreaking moment is breathtaking; he highlights the comfort and torment memories create in a war widow with the lyric, "I lose a little bit of myself with each tear I wipe away," and captures the humanity of hookers in their attempt to keep warm on a Christmas Eve stroll.

Even when singing in the first person, Cleaves is more of an observer than a participant, and when he reports, it's with a keen eye. His story of an old-time hanging, "Twistin'," is an uncomfortably business-as-usual outing that connects to a devastatingly modern indictment. His quiet vocal lets the horrors speak for themselves, with corporal drum and moaning fiddle standing as characters. His cover of Ray Bonneville's "Run Jolee Run" cycles from hunted to hunter and back to hunted, and the romantic of "Dreams" wonders "where do all your dreams go to, when it all starts to turn untrue / what is all your wishing for, when you don't believe in dreams anymore?"

The album winds down with a bitter critique of politicians, global industrialists and sleepwalking media, somehow managing to retain a belief in the goodness of man. The closer, "Temporary," resigns itself to existential impermanence. The magic of this album is how appealing Cleaves and his producer, Gurf Morlix, make such downbeat material. The arrangements are spare and quiet, the tempos deliberate, and though Cleaves is in his mid-forties, his voice retains a youthful tone that's slightly scratched at the top end of his range. This is the most absorbing album Cleaves has recorded so far, and a strong contender for album-of-the-year honors. [©2009 hyperbolium dot com]
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on April 28, 2009
Format: Audio CD
A year ago, I'd never even heard of Slaid Cleaves - now I'm hooked; I have 2 of his previous albums, 'Broke Down' and 'Unsung'. When I first listened to 'Everything You Love Will Be Taken Away', I thought 'it sounds different'; and having listened to it several times since, that initial feeling has been reinforced.

SC's songs often feature lyrics about ordinary people who find life a struggle just to get by, or those who have experienced personal tragedies and/or a deep sense of loss; many of the songs here continue to follow those familiar themes. However, a darker side to his writing is beginning to emerge, and this is particularly noticeable on 'Green Mountains and Me', 'Twistin'' and 'Beautiful Thing' - either way, there's not much (if anything at all) on this album which will fill you with 'the joys of Spring'. The songs are mainly slow to medium tempo - 'Hard To Believe' is the only up-tempo one to speak of (and it 'rocks a bit' too).

For a man now in his mid-40s, it's remarkable how youthful his voice sounds - something which sets him apart from many of his contemporaries. His 'matter of fact' delivery of the songs belies the potency of their lyrics - a qualitative combination that would spell out a recipe for disaster for some artists. But with SC, his somewhat impassive vocals serve only to emphasize the intensity of the lyrics - then again, with some songs I detected just a little more edge to his singing than on previous albums.

As with 'Broke Down' and 'Unsung', the playing is elegant but, on this album, I thought it wasn't quite as restrained. I think the production is very skilful because it allows for a more 'forward' sound which is just enough, where necessary, to accentuate the darker mood of the album, without detracting from the songs themselves or SC's delivery of them. The album includes some short instrumental solos, and a few things to listen out for include : the lap steel playing on 'Hard To Believe', the English Horn arrangement on 'Beyond Love', the interplay of Wurlitzer and resonator guitar on the groove laden 'Run Jolee Run', the mandolin accompaniment on 'Tumbleweed Stew' and the eerie fiddle sounds on 'Twistin''. Also, the tasteful and subtle harmony vocals from Trish Murphy (on 3 songs) shouldn't be missed.

There isn't a single bad song on this album - some don't have an immediate impact, but once you immerse yourself in the lyrics, as is often the case with good song writing, those same songs usually end up being the ones you keep coming back to. Texas seems to be a fertile land for singer-songwriters - Slaid Cleaves represents yet another not so 'Lone Star' which is in its ascendancy. 'Everything You Love Will Be Taken Away' is one fine album of folk-americana, but its darker mood and, at times, uncompromising lyrics may not be to everyone's taste.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on February 20, 2010
Format: Audio CDVerified Purchase
This is a fine album with consistently high-quality music and songs. I have heard Cleaves live, opening for the wonderful Guy Clark, and have his previous records, but this is the best thing he has ever done. It is no doubt a bit sad and gloomy but the sadness seems mature and well-earned, and the lovely melodies soften the blow of the lyrics a bit. I listen to it often.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on September 21, 2009
Format: Audio CDVerified Purchase
I was first introduced to Slaid Cleaves when he opened up for Steve Forbert several years ago. I was very impressed with him that night and bought one of his CD's at the show. I've since bought a couple of others and this one ranks among his best. Solid songwriting throughout.

I'd strongly recommend this one to a 'new fan' as a strong introduction of his work.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Format: Audio CDVerified Purchase
There's not much I can say that hasn't already been well said about Everything You Love Will Be Taken Away. Slaid Cleaves new album is a splendid batch of songs, restrained yet exquisite in delivery and alive with artistry.
I like the whole CD but I naturally have my favorites. Those are: the only up-tempo song Hard To Believe, Green Mountains and Me, Run Jolee Run, the bleak Dreams, the whimsical Tumbleweed Stew, and the tasty Beautiful Thing.
If you have not yet heard Cleaves but enjoy singer-songwriters like Dave Alvin, James McMurtry, or John Hiatt then this musical stroll on the dark side may be for you. The CD is packaged in digipak format and contains minimal album information but no lyrics. The liner notes include some excellent commentary on this CD by Stephen King who like Cleaves comes from Maine. Check this out, it is bound to rank as one of the year's best.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on February 12, 2010
Format: Audio CD
Heard a couple of tracks playing in my favorite record store. Thought about it a couple of days, then went back and bought it. I like every song on this CD.

Cleaves doesn't take the chordal structure or tempo far from a formula that works for him, but the songs in this collection are all gems of melancholy observation.

They say the place he writes about is no country for old men, but Cleaves is there, still kicking. He must not be that old yet.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on February 6, 2010
Format: MP3 Music
This collection of songs is simply breathtaking. Whatever your favorite genre is, if you appreciate exquisite songwriting with a bittersweet and yet hopeful delivery, add these songs to your library; you and all your friends will be richer for it. This recording achieves a level of artistry entirely uncommon.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on November 11, 2009
Format: Audio CDVerified Purchase
Another fine cd by slaid,have only had it a short time and find most of his music creeps up on you,the more you play it the better it gets.Have all his music and no doubt that this will become my favourite like all his others.His songs are everyday life experences,great stuff.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format: Audio CDVerified Purchase
I experienced some diverenge from past Slaid efforts, but afterall, shouldn't an artist express a few liberties and a wider brush. As with many new experiences, this will likely settle in and become a favorite CD.
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