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.
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AllMusic Review by Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr.