What the hell was he gonna do after Broke Down? Seriously. Slaid Cleaves has been touring for three years on the strength of his first album--a singer/songwriter effort beloved by critics and fans. And just what was so special about Broke Down? Dark, sad and sometimes uncomfortable stories matched with Cleaves' gentle yet expressive tenor and a blissful guitar twang. On his last visit here, Cleaves played to a horde of what the Sons of Hermann Hall bartenders dubbed "Slaid Sluts"--women spanning the early 20s (OK, that was me) to middle age, in love with his voice, humble attitude and slightly shy reaction to applause. Further in the back were the guys, straining over the pack to see Cleaves effortlessly pick intricate melodies. But with his second full-length, Wishbones, will the response be the same? Probably not--and good on him. Wishbones is more of a band album, with Cleaves rocking a bit harder, playing off campy rhymes like "horses and divorces" ("Horses"), yodeling a bit and opening up his melodies to the darkness of his anecdotes. The first song and title track transition from the last album into his new vibe. The change in style might be slightly shocking to the "Slaid Slut," but the progression hints that Cleaves is more into it, more passionate. And that's a rare and welcome thing. Of course, he's not strayed so far off the path; the Sons ballroom floor will not go to waste.
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