So here’s an artist that I wish I had heard of years ago!! This guy is pure, unadulterated, makes-most-other-musicians-want-to-slit-their-wrists, talent! I just wish I could find more information about this guy!! He’s from Texas. That’s all his biography will dare tell us.
What strikes me about Shakey Graves is the unapologetic rawness of his performance. His album “Roll the Bones” gives the impression of a home recording using a sub-standard microphone, and the very clever layering of his vocals make his sound somewhat hypnotic.
In the opening track of his 2011 Album “Roll the Bones”, called “Unlucky Skin”, Alejandro Rose-Garcia (or simply “Shakey Grave”) glides between time signatures with a grace that only comes with years of practice. (On a side note, for those of you that are scratching your head, the “time signature” of a piece of music is what determines the meter and how many beats there are per measure, and to a certain degree, the arrangement of strong beats within the piece.) And it’s not regular time signatures either. He swaps between 5 and 7 beats per measure, and as any musician would tell you, just learning to master either one is hard enough on its own. The result is a constant shifting of beats which draws the listener’s attention and holds it.
He uses this technique on several different levels. In “Built to Roam”, each of the first three lines of the first verse has an added layer of vocals, breaking the monotony of just a single voice taking us through to the chorus. The second verse has the same build of vocals, but the well placed pause before the last chorus builds tension nicely. It’s subtle, but clever.
His cover of Bruce Sprinsteens “Fire” is a stand out for me. He’s given it a darkness that is very intriguing. Everyone listens to a piece of music with different ears. A person’s life experiences play a big part in interpreting music, and the same song can even be interpreted differently by the same person at different points in their life. That’s the beauty of listening to and collecting music. My point is, Shakey Graves has offered us his understanding of this classic track, and it certainly twists the meaning of the song. I’d love to know what “The Boss” himself thinks.
The rest of the album follows in a similar way; constantly challenging us to rethink our perception of him as an artist, but I’m not going to analyze each song here. What I really want you to see is what he does in a live situation. Let me put it this way; if you went to a gig of some guy you had never heard of, probably in some dive of a bar where the local bar flies are less than appealing, and the artist walks up on stage with only a guitar and a kick drum/tambourine fashioned out of an old suitcase and kick drum pedals, what would your first thoughts be? But then he’d start playing, and this is what you’d hear…
And with every song he’d keep you so focused on his wildly eclectic persona that you may as well be sitting alone in the room with him playing just for you. Here’s another track (not from the reviewed album) that he did with Esme Patterson. It’s just too good not to share. The track starts at 1:05. Enjoy!
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10 April 2014