Everyone knows you can’t throw a whiskey bottle in Austin, TX without hitting two great songwriters. Now I know you can’t even throw the whiskey bottle unless you’re a kick-ass songwriter. Where do these guys come from? Does Austin offer free beer to songwriters?
I’m talking about Graham Weber, who blew me away last night opening up for Slaid Cleaves. I knew Slaid would be good. His 2009 release Everything You Love Will Be Taken Away was a huge hit amongst us Americana bloggers (coming in at #5 on Twangville’s list and #6 on the Bird List) and his back catalog is just as strong. Perhaps if I had paid a little closer attention to Slaid’s back catalog, I would have known who Weber was. Cleaves’ recorded an album of covers called Unsung featuring a passel of his Austin songwriting buddies songs back in 2006. It was and is an excellent record that includes songs by Michael O’Connor, David Olney, Adam Carroll, Karen Posten, and of course Graham Weber. Weber’s song on that record “Oh Roberta” was one of many highlights of his set last night. He opened his all too short set with the hilarious “Love and Money” and by the time he finished his epic cover of “Like A Rolling Stone” (solo acoustic, he nailed this one) not a man, woman, or child in attendance wasn’t captivated.
Slaid’s set was as solid as could be. He’s got the stage presence and vocal nuances one would expect from the seasoned veteran he is. Though with all his vocal exuberance, I couldn’t help but wish for a full band show at a rowdy bar. That being said, it was great to hear him in the listening room at St. Stephen’s, where you could literally hear a pin drop. Slaid made good use of that silence, and played a handful of my favorites including “Cry”, “One Good Year”, “Horseshoe Lounge”, “Drinkin’ Days”, and “Green Mountains and Me”. He also played “Breakfast in Hell” a song that he says he refuses to play (because of its length) unless someone requests it by the proper title. Unfortunately for him, it was requested by multiple people at St. Stephens. Slaid rocked it though and even got the audience involved in classic folk tradition. He encored with a new gospel style song, apparently inspired by Hank Williams. Check out a live version of “One Good Year” below.
What really sent Slaid’s set over the moon was the presence of multi-instrumentalist Duke Levine. Levine has had a pretty colorful career as a backing musician. He currently is an ax-man for former J. Geils Band frontman Peter Wolf, but has also graced records by Shawn Colvin, Bill Morrissey, Mary Chapin Carpenter, John Gorka, and others. Levine added incredibly tasteful electric guitar licks and an occasional mandolin accompaniment to Slaid’s songs. His bright guitar work was impeccably clean and concise. He never managed to steal Slaid’s thunder entirely, but it was close. The two clearly enjoy playing together and the musical collaboration made the evening a very special performance.
About the author: Specializes in Dead, Drunk, and Nakedness..... Former College Radio DJ and Current Craft Beer Nerd