He may be mostly unknown to audiences beyond hard-core folkies and fellow singer-songwriters, but Slaid Cleaves is easily one of the finest practitioners of that craft these days. His raw and intimate story-songs balance on the precarious ground of simplicity, nailing complex ideas and emotions in a way which makes them seem wholly digestible, without undermining their worth or glazing over their poetry. “Without Her,’ from Slaid’s new album, Still Fighting the War, is a perfect example, using the song’s title as a repetitious refrain, showing all the ways one’s life is affected – for better and worse – when they lose someone they love. In his case, it’s a song about a dog that had to be put down, but could be easily applied to any kind of lost love. He talks here about the folk process that informs his songwriting and gives credit to its other masters, like Hank Williams and Pete Seeger, who helped him understand the value of tradition and simplicity. Indeed, their influence is easily felt in this and many of Cleaves’ songs.
(Video by: Reid Connell of Be Lie All)