Shakey Graves, aka Alejandro Rose-Garcia from Austin, Texas, plays a gnarly composite of blues and folk as a one-man-band of epic sonic proportions. The sound emitted from his hollow body guitar, mildly distorted amp and suitcase drum belie the young singer’s lean frame. He fingerpicks while keeping time with a double-pedal kick drum, hitting a snare fitted into his suitcase drum and a tambourine fashioned to its side. And when he sings, Rose-Garcia unleashes an unearthly howl. Gritty groans and sexy moans carry his stories of both accepting and trying to overcome personal challenges masked with old-timey Western imagery.
His first full-length album, Roll the Bones, which was self-released in 2011 and landed him a spot as the official busker of the Railroad Revival Tour with Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros, Mumford & Sons and Old Crow Medicine Show. Much more mellow than his current live performances, Roll the Bones highlights Rose-Garcia more as a lo-fi singer-songwriter, playing acoustic guitars and occasionally taming his growl to a whisper.
The son of artistic parents — his father was a longtime manager of the Paramount Theatre and his mother is an actress, director and writer — Rose-Garcia was always encouraged to pursue his musical and dramatic ambitions, and he clearly feeds off the wildly different personalities and talents of creative communities.
After his early stumbles in New York, he quickly earned respect in an inventive weirdo folk community; his stories of a Los Angeles scene centered in a garment warehouse converted into a loft/speakeasy have Moulin Rouge-level craziness. In Austin he’s connected with a community of musicians focused around Annie Street, while also bonding with indie bands such as Marmalakes, the Sour Notes, Wild Child, Hello Wheels, Whiskey Shivers and more.
Of course, none of those rock or country-influenced bands sound very much like Shakey Graves, and Rose-Garcia said their kinship is founded mostly on hard work and a desire to make the most of their talent in Austin and beyond.
For him that means a year that will be spent mostly on the road — he was among the first acts confirmed for South by Southwest 2013 and is booked for West Texas’ Utopia Fest and the Pickathon in Portland, Ore. — and weighing the biggest decisions of his still-young career.