No Depression (p.107) - "Cleaves reaches deep for some heartrending balladry....'Call It Sleep' is about as vivid a blue-collar lament as you're likely to hear this side of NEBRASKA-era Springsteen."
Mojo (Publisher) (p.104) - 4 stars out of 5 -- "Drawing on a wealth of largely unappreciated talent, Cleves has delivered an immensely satisfying album."
Personnel: Slaid Cleaves (vocals, background vocals); Rod Picott (vocals, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, Wurlitzer organ); David Henry (vocals, electric guitar, cello, trumpet, piano, organ, pump organ, synthesizer, electric bass, shaker, percussion, background vocals); Charles Arthur (acoustic guitar, lap steel guitar, autoharp, mandolin, piano, organ); Pat Buchanan (electric guitar); Ned Henry (violin); David Jacques (trombone, euphonium, tuba, upright bass); Paul Griffith (drums, triangle, percussion); Nick Buda (drums); Mary Gauthier (background vocals).
Audio Mixer: David Henry .
Author: Slaid Cleaves.
Photographers: Dennis Fagan; Karen Cleaves.
Musicians place a great deal of importance on other musicians' ability to craft their own songs, so it's extremely unusual for a songwriter like Slaid Cleaves to put an entire album together of other peoples' songs as he has on Unsung. As he states, "these days, the songs that knock me out are the ones I come across face to face, in my travels and in my home." This sort of self-effacement is welcome, because there are so many good songs out there that go unheard while songwriters, inspired or not, usually insist on writing new ones. The strange thing about Unsung, though, is that Cleaves manages, through his warm, lived vocals and Americana backing, to make the most of these songs -- songs written by other singer/songwriters -- sound like his own. In fact, it's an easy bet that if an old fan picked up the album and listened to "Devil's Lullaby" and "Racecar Joe" without bothering to read the credits, he or she'd never know the difference. The songs, by writers like Peter Keane and Chris Montgomery, are literary, tuneful, and, in the mouth of Cleaves, well-worn friends. With solid arrangements and well-chosen songs, Unsung should satisfy anyone who appreciates a thoughtful song well sung. ~ Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr.