Shakey Graves Photo by Todd Cooper

The Shakes

Shakey Graves updates his sound with Can’t Wake Up

Austin musician Alejandro Rose-Garcia, better known as Shakey Graves, has been playing around Eugene for so long that watching his ascendency feels a bit like seeing a local boy make it big.

In his early shows at Sam Bond’s, Rose-Garcia was like a street busker come indoors, playing acoustic guitar with a suitcase for a kick drum. Now he’s flexing rock star muscles on his latest release Can’t Wake Up. 

Graves has always lived in the middle of styles commonly known as Americana: roots rock, blues, folk, gospel and soul — all juiced up a bit on Austin’s transgressive energy and a little brooding potency.

With Wake Up, Graves adds studio sheen to his material, and — perhaps surprisingly — a little Muswell Hillbillies-era Kinks, particularly in the British invasion-style harmonies, song structure and observational tone.

In the past, did we just not notice that Graves’ voice even sounds a bit like a Yankee Ray Davies, especially in its higher, straining registers? 

The album starts off with the moody “Counting Sheep,” which leads up to the kind of chorus that could launch a thousand ships, or at least make romantic young fans tattoo “Shakey Graves” on their forearms. In fact, Wake Up track “Dining Alone” might as well be a Kinks deep cut, as Shakey sings of mundane, everyday life: “Drip dry/ do it again … dream about all of the things that I’ll never do.”

On “Kids These Days” Graves sings, “I am the young, dumb, chosen one/ Kids these days!” It’s not an anthem of youth, however, but rather the pondering of a soul that’s always been a little out of time, a classic Cadillac in a world of Priuses.

“Aibohphobia” starts with the crackly swing of the 1920s, before becoming pure rock ‘n’ roll.

Overall, Can’t Wake Up opens up Shakey’s toybox with positive results, but the fundamentals remain, like ’50s style tremolo guitar and an ear for pop conventions from earlier eras.

Let’s all welcome rock star Shakey 2.0 back to Eugene 8 pm Friday, Dec. 7, at McDonald Theatre; $25 advance, $30 door, all-ages.

Photos of Shakey Graves by Todd Cooper

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