We just posted about the new electronic sensation out of Dallas, Ishi, and I have to admit a weakness for that genre of music. If I ever start another band, I would love to make synth-inflected indie dance pop. It’s just so much damn fun to listen to and to play. All of which makes my intense love of Shakey Graves all the more inexplicable. I mean, I don’t like solo acoustic guitar acts. So why have I seen Shakey Graves live four times in the last nine months? Why have I played the first half of his Roll the Bones album into the ground? Why do I enjoy his latest offering so much?
Last Thursday was Shakey Graves Day here in Austin, with the city honoring him for his musical talent by archiving Roll the Bones. Graves (whose real name is Alejandro Rose-Garcia) celebrated the day with Laser Tag, booze and the release of a new 7-song EP, The State of Texas Vs. Alejandro Rose-Garcia – an oddly antagonistic title, considering that the municipal government has clearly embraced him so. Graves has admitted that the album was “haphazardly thrown together” from old homemade recordings and more recent live performances, and that eclecticism is evident. The record never gels into a cohesive whole, but the songs are so strong that it doesn’t really matter.Shakey Graves - 'Once In a While'
The whole project is worthwhile just for the live version of “Built to Roam” – originally found on Roll the Bones – that opens the EP. It illustrates the playful freedom with which Graves approaches his songs in the live setting, bending and twisting the timing and melodies to provide fresh interpretations of his material. It also features some of the power that his voice is capable of live that sometimes doesn’t make it into the “studio” versions of his songs. Fortunately, the rest of the tracks, though “newer,” offer compelling moments as well. The live songs are great for the candid moments they offer, like the crowd noise on “Lonely Hill” or the banter on the delightful “Feel Good Smell Good Woman Blues.” The studio tracks feature some of Graves’ trademark harmonies, as on the frantic “Halloween” or the steady mid-tempo groove “Once in a While” (maybe my favorite non “Built to Roam” song on the EP…even with the clip from the 1984 film Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo thrown in at the end).
None of this explains, though, why I like this music so much. I could point to Graves’ interesting fingerpicked guitar parts, or his catchy but rootsy melodies. But it’s not just that. One of the refrains of “Built to Roam” is indicative of Shakey Graves’ whole philosophy: “It doesn’t matter where we’re headed / Some of us were built to roam.” This restlessness is evident on several other songs on the EP, and it shows that Graves is always moving, changing, striving. He’s on a journey and he’s bringing us along for the ride, and in the end, it doesn’t matter where he’s going. Just the sound of him roaming is all I need.