Alejandro Rose-Garcia never intended to make a living as a musician. Getting his first brush of fame acting in “Spy Kids 3D” and the “Friday Night Lights” TV show, no one would have expected Rose-Garcia to be touring nationally and playing festivals as Shakey Graves a decade later.
Shakey Graves first started getting attention with his debut album “Roll the Bones” in 2011, which he self-released as a pay-what-you-want project on Bandcamp. His early signature sound of backwoodsy folk-blues, complete with self-harmonized vocals and percussive ham-boning all resting atop a warm bed of lo-fi recording and tape hiss, captivated listeners far and wide, quickly making “Roll the Bones” one of the most popular albums on Bandcamp.
After this initial release, Shakey’s sound evolved toward a grittier, biting style. There are many incredible live performances available on YouTube where he can be seen bringing a new vigor to the songs of “Roll the Bones,” among others. Shakey’s live act remained a one-man-show for several years after “Roll the Bones,” with him playing guitar, a suitcase bass drum, a foot pedaled tambourine, and singing, all in a fiery, intoxicating musical tempest.
Shakey’s second full-length release “And The War Came” saw his move to a label and the addition of more musicians under the Shakey Graves banner. This release brought his audience to national proportions, with songs like “Dearly Departed” even spending a few weeks on the charts.
When comparing “Roll the Bones” and “And The War Came,” one might feel that Shakey has lost a little bit of what made him unique. “And The War Came” still shines, but it perhaps shines a little too bright for those who fell in love with Shakey’s early dust-covered sound.
Luckily, Shakey’s discography has an incredible swath of hard to find releases that offer a treasure trove of weird and wonderfully diverse material for devout fans to sink their teeth into. Every year on Feb. 9 (decreed Shakey Graves Day by the mayor of Austin), fans are treated to new releases of rarities, demos, and live recordings. These releases and all prior Shakey Graves Day releases are only officially available for download on Feb. 9 through 11 every year, making them a bit hard to find online for new fans. Fortunately, they can be found on Reddit and other fan communities all year long. These releases contain some of his best and most experimental songs, including sentimental crooner “Chinatown” on the SG Day II EP “Story of my Life” and the borderline vaporwave track “If I Was Yours” from this year’s release “The Man from Taured,” to name a very limited few.
Few artists have the flexibility and consistent ability to amaze with their songwriting as Shakey Graves. Digging in and exploring his discography is a rewarding and eye opening journey that everyone should try.