Meet Shakey Graves
"Come skin your knees with us, life’s too short for business lunch” howls Austin Texas’ most impressive one-man folk act, Alejandro Rose-Garcia, in the song “Business Lunch.” Rose-Garcia, storyteller and multi-tasker extraordinaire, is more popularly known by his stage-name “Shakey Graves.”
More on that later. You see, I’ve been humming his lyrics on repeat since spring semester and they haven’t turned sour yet. This can probably be attributed to the fact that he hasn’t been overplayed (or played at all) on the radio waves, just in the space between my ears.
Have you noticed how radio completely destroys your love of music? Even the less pop-y stations. I can see the DJs now, petting their cats in their swivel chairs as they play songs over and over and over again until you want to rip your hair out. That’s when you switch off the FM transmitter and start searching for something new. Something for your ears only. (But then you post it on an online blog, because it’s just too good to keep to yourself.)
Donning boots, a hat and oftentimes a tie with suspenders… Shakey Graves’ look matches his sound. From another time. His soothing old-timey voice and powerful lyricism will make you wonder whether you’ve been drawn into an episode of the Twilight Zone, to a strange and distant land where musicians are musicians, not celebrities pulling publicity stunts to cover up their general lack of talent.
Despite the cowboy boots and his Texan background, Shakey Graves isn’t what you would call “country.” The man’s voice is the kind you want to lull you to sleep at night. Like sandpaper that been smoothed down just enough so that it’s almost velvety. His sound is something that will make you stop in your tracks, take a double take and put his voice on loop.
Shakey Graves sings, plays guitar, kicks a tambourine all the while keeping beat with his home-made kick drum suitcase. He’s covered “Lovefool” by the Cardigans and Springsteen’s classic “I’m on Fire”, making them both his own.
The origins of the name of Austin’s best new act are described in the introduction to his song “Late July” which can be found on YouTube. According to Rose-Garcia, one night, he and his friends were talking when a drunk wandered over and tried to share his whiskey with them.
After mumbling about how great his whiskey was, the man muttered something about “spooky wagons” and walked off. Naturally, the gang decided to give each other Indian-ghost-story names, so Rose-Garcia was named “Shakey Graves.” At Rose-Garcia’s next show, someone asked him for his name, and without hesitation, he replied “Shakey Graves.”
So was born Shakey Graves.
In “Late July”, Shakey Graves tells the tale of a man who murders his gold digging wife saying, “I won’t die with no regrets because I’m eager, young and qualified. Yeah, I’m eager, young and starry-eyed. Oh the big leagues call and I reply, I got a date with that chair, oh, in late July.”
Reminiscent of the story-telling of early Bob Dylan, Shakey Graves puts his audience on the edge of their seats. He’s able to capture the struggles of the common man in a way that’s been recently overshadowed by sappy love-songs and get-money rap artists. Each generation has a few standouts, a few folks that seem to capture the struggle of the everyman. Shakey may just be that man.