Shakey Graves: Austin’s Finest Freak Folk

I have a well-documented aversion to Red 7 due to its horrific indoor sound quality, but I think I may have to overcome that in the name of the Backbeat Magazine Block Party. The line-up, as Dan laid out yesterday, is unbelievable, featuring many of our favorite Austin musicians, and many more amazing local standouts. Fortunately, though, Red 7 is not the only place you have to go to see awesome Austin artists; the Beauty Bar and the Side Bar are both showcasing tons of great music, including yesterday’s featured band: Wild Child. One of the other acts you could catch at the Beauty Bar – right after Wild Child, in fact – is Shakey Graves, which is the stage name for Alejandro Rose-Garcia.

I haven’t really followed freak folk since Devendra Banhart’s Rejoicing the Hands or the early Animal Collective recordings. However, Shakey Graves picks up where those artists left off without missing a beat. Rose-Garcia writes intricate melodic lines for his banjo or guitar, and matches those with haunting vocal melodies. Yet, he is more than just a man with a guitar. He layers his vocals into choruses that sometimes sing out of time or that talk to one another. He also isn’t afraid to work with spoken-word samples, or to throw a live recording into his studio album (one which features horns!). As a sometime-songwriter myself, I have felt bored with the “limitations” of solo acoustic guitar writing recently, but Rose-Garcia proves that I’m just not thinking creatively enough – there’s still plenty of ground to cover in that medium.

Shakey Graves - I'm on Fire


Shakey Graves’ creativity may be best on display on his inventive cover of “I’m on Fire” by Bruce Springsteen. It’s only recognizable from the lyrics, which follow the same rough melodic contour of the original; instead, the song takes on a stripped-down life of its own. As a fan of cool covers, this has undoubtedly piqued my interest. But then a song like “Business Lunch” shows that this same spirit is extended to Rose-Garcia’s original material. You can get his album from last year, Roll the Bones, here for any price (including free!) while you await his next release – slated for this December. Oh, and of course Shakey Graves is one of the many exciting artists you can check out tomorrow at the Backbeat Magazine Block Party. See y’all there!