Trojan Living Editor
Since we’ve had a few warm days this week, I’m going to get my hopes up and act like it’s here to stay. With this mindset comes revisiting artists who make me feel like it’s warm weather year round.
One artist I come back to consistently is Shakey Graves. Hailing from Austin, Texas, this (once solo) four-piece band always seems to be in my head on warmer days for some reason.
Shakey Graves is hard to pinpoint when it comes to describing its sounds. It combines blues, folk, country, rock and more recently, pop. Though I recommend listening to the group’s entire discography, I’m going to just touch on my favorite live album and the most recent EP “Look Alive.”
In 2013, Shakey Graves — then only comprised of singer Alejandro Rose-Garcia with a guitar and kickdrum/suitcase/tambourine contraption — performed a small set for Audiotree Live.
The set-list was only five songs long, including “Roll the Bones,” “Built To Roam,” “Bully’s Lament,” “Word of Mouth” and “Late July.” Each was from his first album, “Roll the Bones” and a few songs that had yet to be released.
A few things I wanted to point out about this performance was how good these early songs were live, especially when Rose-Garcia was playing it all on his own.
One performance that stands out from the string of songs is the last, “Late July.” Like most of his earlier works, the song starts off slow and quiet and builds as the song progresses. I think one of my favorite things about this song has always been its lyrics.
The song follows a young man who is on death row after a string of incidents. Some of my favorite lyrics include “Well Mama should be proud of me / Oh, I lived like a man, I’ll die like a king / cause I’m eager young and qualified / Got a date with that chair in late July…” and “Well Papa should be in my place / Oh, to fry like bacon, hang like lace….”
The juxtaposition of the reality of the lyrics and the bouncing, infectiousness that the music offers makes for an interesting listen.
Now a four-piece band, with Patrick O’Connor on guitar, Chris “Boo” Boosahda on drums and Jon Shaw on bass, Shakey Graves’ new EP “Look Alive” was released in May of 2020.
More laid back and relaxed, this EP lends itself to a new, yet fitting sound for the band. With only four songs on the EP, it does a fantastic job of leaving the listener satisfied, as no two songs sound the same.
Released only a few months into the beginning of quarantine, the lyrics from the opening song “Look Alive” are extremely relatable — “As of now, I exist / It takes a little while to get used to this rotation / Either way, I’ll make it through the day / What I wouldn’t give, for a little motivation / To look alive….”
The star of this album is easily “The Recipe” which details discontent with life as one ages. “Horribly half-grown in Ohio / Trying to learn the songs the kids know / Camels don’t taste right to me / They must’ve changed the recipe…,” sings Rose-Garcia over a low bass and guitar riff consistent throughout the whole song.
Ranging from Rose-Garcia’s original bluesy Americana sounds with tracks like “The Recipe” and “Not Everything Grows” to trippy indie sounds in “Look Alive” and “Under the Hood,” this is an album that has everything a Shakey Graves fan would want.
The grittiness of Rose-Garcia’s voice, along with the ragged screeching reverb of his guitar in his earlier work – to the quiet indie-blues we hear in “Look Alive” and enticing storytelling throughout his entire discography, Shakey Graves could not be an easier listen.