When Slaid Cleaves moved from Portland, Maine, to Austin, Texas, at the tail end of 1991, he landed on South Lamar Boulevard, a few blocks from the legendarily seedy Horseshoe Lounge. But as he points out on his new live album, “It was many years of drivin’ by before I worked up the courage to come in through the door.”
Maybe his New Englander’s reserve got the better of him; one thing most Texans do not fear is walking into a bar. But curiosity and, no doubt, the lure of stories contained within eventually won out, and in 2000, Slaid wound up releasing “Horseshoe Lounge,” an ode to the 46-year-old beer joint, on his breakout CD Broke Down. A turning point in his career, Broke Down transformed Cleaves from feckless Austin singer/songwriter, playing open mics and running sound at the legendary Cactus Cafe to Americana chart-topping, New York Times-lauded (“One of the finest songwriters from Texas”) national touring artist. Oh, yeah, and the 2001 Austin Music Awards named the title track, written with childhood pal Rod Picott, Best Song of the Year.