Slaid Cleaves spins stories with a novelist’s eye and a poet’s heart. Twenty years into his career, the celebrated songwriter’s Still Fighting the War spotlights an artist in peak form. Cleaves’ seamless new collection delivers vivid snapshots as wildly cinematic as they are carefully chiseled. Dress William Faulkner with faded jeans and a worn six-string for a good idea. Few writers frame bruised souls as clearly. Fewer still deliver a punch with such striking immediacy.
Cleaves delivers equal measures of hope and resignation throughout this 2013 release as life lessons slide subtly through side doors. “Normally when I start writing a new batch, a theme starts to emerge after three or four songs,” says Cleaves, who built an unlikely success story from scratch after moving to Austin, Texas, from Maine two decades ago. “This time around I thought, I’m just gonna write where the muse takes me and each song will be its own thing.
Still Fighting the War follows the razor sharp songwriter’s undeniable hat trick – Broke Down (2000), Wishbones (2004) and Everything You Love Will Be Taken Away (2009) – that established him as a singular storyteller. His golden key: effortlessly shading dark with light. Cue Cleaves’ excellent double-disc Sorrow & Smoke: Live at the Horseshoe Lounge for inarguable evidence (“Drinkin’ Days,” “Wishbones,” “Horseshoe Lounge”). http://slaidcleaves.com
Eliza Gilkyson is a Grammy-nominated singer, songwriter and activist who has become one of the most respected musicians in Folk, Roots and Americana circles. The daughter of legendary songwriter Terry Gilkyson, Eliza entered the music world as a teenager, recording demos for her father. Since then she has released 20 recordings of her own, and her songs have been covered by Joan Baez, Bob Geldof, Tom Rush and Rosanne Cash and have been used in films, PBS specials and on prime-time TV.
Eliza has appeared on NPR, Austin City Limits, Mountain Stage, etown, XM Radio, Air America Radio and has toured worldwide as a solo artist and in support of Richard Thompson, Patty Griffin, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Dan Fogelberg, as well as with the Woody Guthrie review, Ribbon of Highway-Endless Skyway, alongside the Guthrie Family, Jimmy Lafave, Slaid Cleaves, and special guests Pete Seeger, Jackson Browne and Kris Kristofferson. She has been inducted into the Austin Music Hall of Fame alongside such legends as Willie Nelson, Townes Van Zandt and Nanci Griffith and is an ongoing winner of the Austin Chronicle’s various music awards, as well as Folk Alliance awards for Best Artist, Best Songwriter and Record of the Year.
Her CD Land of Milk and Honey was nominated for a Grammy for Best Contemporary Folk Album. Eliza’s meditative “Requiem,” written as a prayer for those who lost their lives in the devastating tsunami in Southeast Asia, was recorded by the internationally recognized choral group Conspirare, whose version was nominated for a Grammy and won the prestigious Edison Award in Europe. The song has become a standard in choir repertory the world over. Two of her songs appeared on Joan Baez’ Grammy-nominated CD, Day After Tomorrow. In addition to touring in support of her previous release, Roses at the End of Time, in 2011 and 2012 Eliza and label-mates John Gorka and Lucy Kaplansky performed as “Folk Super Trio” Red Horse, a side project whose CD stayed for months at the top of the Folk Music Charts. Eliza recently was invited to contribute a track on the Jackson Browne tribute, Looking Into You (due to be released in early 2014), along with Bruce Springsteen, Don Henley, Sara Watkins, Shawn Colvin, Bonnie Raitt and others. Her latest release on Red House Records, The Nocturne Diaries, produced by her son Cisco Ryder, is a restless contemplative work inspired by the converging forces of her highest hopes and darkest fears.
Eliza is an active member of the Austin music and political community, including the environmental organization Save Our Springs (www.sosalliance.org), and she is a co-founder of www.5604manor.org , an Austin-based resource center that promotes political activism and community involvement around issues of race, patriarchy and global injustice. http://www.elizagilkyson.com
Bruce Robison is an Austin-based Texas country music singer-songwriter. Bruce and his brother, fellow singer-songwriter Charlie Robison, grew up in Bandera, Texas, near San Antonio, and he currently resides in Austin. His self-titled debut album was released in 1995.
Bruce has written several songs which have become hits when covered by well known singers, including: “Travelin’ Soldier,” (recorded in 2003 by the Dixie Chicks, reached No. 1 on the Country charts); “Angry All the Time,” (recorded by Tim McGraw and Faith Hill in 2001, also reached No. 1 on the country charts); and “Wrapped," (recorded in 2006 by George Strait, also reached No. 1). http://www.brucerobison.com