And the War Came, the 2014 third album by Shakey Graves, features an overall minimalistic approach with simple acoustic guitar, percussion up front and impressively tight production. Born Alejandro Rose-Garcia, this songwriter and performer has an incredible talent for using his unique voice (a voice which naturally falls somewhere between Bruce Springsteen and Eddie Vedder) to maximum effect. But most impressive here is the strength of the compositions, which subtly branch out from a folk/Americana core to many unique blends of style and genre.
Prior to launching his career in music, Austin, TX native Rose-Garcia was a television actor on the series Friday Night Lights. After adopting his new stage name, Shakey Graves released two true solo albums as a one-man act, Roll the Bones in 2011 and Donor Blues in 2012. Unaccompanied by other musicians, Graves has adopted a heralded live act where he performs with just voice, guitar and a makeshift kick-drum built from an old suitcase, a repertoire which has earned him a devoted following.
For this third album, Graves enlisted outside musicians, including vocalist Esmé Patterson, who performed on three of the album’s tracks. And the War Came was produced by Chris Boosahda, who adds some complex drums and percussion to many of the tracks, making many of the songs sound at once spontaneous but with timings and phrasings which are technically perfect. This production approach also contributes to the delicate and diverse feel of the album, which constantly unravels new layers of sonic bliss and at no point settles into a musical lull.
|And the War Came by Shakey Graves|
|Released: October 14, 2014
Produced by: Chris Boosahda
|Track Listing||Primary Musicians|
|This Is The Beginning
The Perfect Parts
Family And Genus
Big Time Nashville Star
House of Winston
If Not For You
Call It Heaven
Lead Vocals, Guitars, Percussion
Drums, Percussion Vocals
The album starts with a frivolous seven second filter track called “This Is the Beginning”, which probably originated as a test of some production effects. “Only Son” quickly follows with beautifully minimal instrumentation and an arrangement which is key to the effectiveness of the stark soundscape. This allows the close up, passionate vocals to radiate even as the song slowly builds with some chorus harmonies and very slight, acoustic tapping percussion. The first track to include Patterson, “Dearly Departed”, features desperate, passionate vocal harmonies. The song maintains an acoustic arrangement with just a touch of electric guitar overtones and lyrics portraying a hollow feel of something that used to be but is no more;
You and I both know this house is haunted…”
The album turns a bit with “The Perfect Parts”, a fully electric song with a bluesy feel and strong but subtle beat. In contrast, “Hard Wired” is a pure blue grass track, complete with acoustic guitar, thumping kick beat and a catchy hook melody in the chorus. Haunting synth fonts add yet a new dimension on “Family and Genus”, before the rhythmic acoustic guitar comes in with a slowly building rhythm and a kind of new wave-ish beat. “Big Time Nashville Star” is the first track not solely composed by Rose-Garcia, as Boosahda and Patterson co-wrote the track. This starts with naked harmonized vocals in a Country-tinged duet, followed by an interesting acoustic phrase. The song concludes with some finely honed pedal steel in the outro. “Pansy Waltz” starts off with thumping double bass to accompany a jazzy acoustic guitar and rapidly paced vocals delivering the tongue-in-cheek;
Well, I’ve never seen life as a chore or a treasure to find / I’ve read the news, abused the booze and often wondered why…”
The album only gets stronger with its diverse and fantastic three closing songs. “House of Winston” is an interesting and entertaining stomp with a distant slide and vocal driven rhythm, while “If Not for You” commences with a long, rhythmic electric guitar accompanied by simple but potent percussion. The song later enters a distinctive bridge part before climatically concluding. The final track “Call It Heaven” once again features Esmé Patterson, who provides perfectly timed harmonized vocals throughout. This raw acoustic shuffle is no natural it almost sounds like it was recorded with a single microphone in a living room.
Following the release of And the War Came, Shakey Graves got some national exposure with a few late night television appearances, followed by the Best Emerging Artist award at the 2015 Americana Music Awards. For 2016, there is more promise ahead with an international tour through Australia, New Zealand, Europe, Canada, and the U.S.