Tag Archives: Shakey Graves

Album of the Day: Shakey Graves, “Can’t Wake Up”

Alejandro Rose-Garcia, the driving force behind Shakey Graves, has a knack for throwing a monkey wrench into the conventions of contemporary folk music. Menacing distortion on his guitar, false starts and unexpected hiccups in his compositions, a touring drummer that often sounds like he’s just strolled in from an audition for Slayer—all of these surprises add an edge to his songs that steer him clear of the tropes of standard indie-folk fare. Continue reading

Big Ups: Shakey Graves Picks His Favorite Albums on Bandcamp

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Photo by Glen Brown

Shakey Graves’s blend of old-school folk, blues, rock, and campfire country songs has garnered him an attentive audience in a relatively short time. Born Alejandro Rose-Garcia, he adapted his stage name after mulling over a series of suggestions jokingly exchanged among friends at a festival campfire 10 years ago.

If at first it seemed a silly nickname, it clearly didn’t prevent him from getting the accolades he deserved. In 2015, he was cited as Best Emerging Artist at the Americana Music Awards. Three years earlier, on February 9, 2012, the city of Austin bestowed on him a mayoral proclamation making it “Shakey Graves Day.” Every year since, he’s used the occasion to release limited archival releases from his catalogue that remain available for three days only before they go back in the vault for another 12 months. His most recent EP offerings, Donor Blues and Nobody’s Fool, are among his earliest efforts.

“When I was first making music, I was recording all the time,” he reflects. “I was kind of recording just for myself. But I always had this fantasy of releasing it one way or another. I have a lot of recordings of weird stuff I’ve nearly forgotten about. These two records had been sitting on the Internet, on my site and on Bandcamp. Donor Blues came out in 2009 and Nobody’s Fool was a collection of B-sides I put together.”

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Tributes to the Boss: Springsteen Covers on Bandcamp

Bruce Springsteen
photo by Danny Clinch

Few figures stand over American music like Bruce Springsteen, so it’s unsurprising to find many independent artists covering his work. Recognized with 20 Grammys, 2 Golden Globes, an Oscar, and a place in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame—he even has a planet named after him—his influence on U.S. arts and culture is hard to dispute.

Springsteen has always been a champion of blue-collar America. Politicians on the local and national level have co-opted his music in an attempt to identify with the working class. Ronald Reagan tried to use his mega-hit “Born In The U.S.A” as a campaign rallying cry in 1984, ignoring the anger of the verses in favor of the patriotic-sounding chorus. Springsteen was not vocally political before then, but after that, he began hinting at his dissatisfaction with the government: “It seems like something’s happening out there where there’s a lot of stuff being taken away from a lot of people that shouldn’t have it taken away from.”

His political activism and outspokenness have only increased in both passion and volume since. In April 2016, Springsteen cancelled a concert in Greensboro, North Carolina in protest of the controversial HB2 law (which the Department of Justice has since stated is in violation of the US Civil Rights Act). Several musical acts followed suit, refusing to bring their business to the state, while others donated concert proceeds to organizations supporting LGBTQIA rights in North Carolina. Springsteen doesn’t only sing of society’s underdogs: he sets an example by standing for what he believes in.

Inspiring other artists both socially and sonically, Bruce Springsteen’s wide-spread popularity has led to many tributes of his work over the years. Check out these these genre-spanning covers you can find here on Bandcamp.

 

Shakey Graves, “I’m On Fire”
Shakey Graves uses the gravelly bluegrass timbre of his voice to bring a faint darkness to this slow-burning song. He plays only the bass line, while lo-fi backing vocals purr along in harmony. The percussion lends itself easily into clapping along, making this version of I’m On Fire a communal listening experience.

 

Dessa, “I’m Goin’ Down”
Dessa spits fire as a member of the rap collective Doomtree, but in her solo work, her love of poetry and philosophy results in a startling thoughtfulness. Dessa approaches Bruce’s almost celebratory “a woman’s done me wrong” song from the opposite perspective. Melancholy and longing weigh heavy in each line, and the song becomes a reflection on a dying relationship.

 

Deletist, “The Ghost of Tom Joad”
“The Ghost of Tom Joad” was inspired by the lead character of The Grapes of Wrath, and both its lyrics and its spare melody evoke a sense of 1930s Americana. Deletist’s cover honors that minimal spirit while amplifying the song’s ‘ghost’ factor with haunting piano and eerie vocals; this is a bleak, dark treatment of a song about hope in the face of hopelessness.

 

HUMANS, “Streets Of Philadelphia”
Written by Springsteen for the 1993 film Philadelphia, the original record’s contemplation of mortality endures in this haunting cover. Echoing vocals fade in and out over a near-frantic synth melody. Without changing a note, the song feels updated for the million crises of our modern era.

 

Jonah Matranga, “Born to Run”
Another of Springsteen’s iconic anthems, Born to Run is a song about outgrowing a hometown that feels too small, and also has the dubious honor of being the most overplayed campaign rally song of all time. But on his version, Matranga treats the lyrics as a fragile hope. His voice wavers, as if he could destroy his chance to escape simply by speaking his dream aloud.

 

Sexton Blake of STRFKR, “Hungry Heart”
Blake keeps Hungry Heart just as playful and lighthearted as the original, while slowing the tempo to a dawdle.  This cover dumps some of the original’s dated early ‘80s elements, such as the sax and plinky piano, in favor of a ragged indie rock treatment.

 

Jody Mulgrew, “Dancing in the Dark”
The Boss’s highest appearance on the Billboard Hot 100 was at #2 with this track, an up-tempo, synth-heavy dance anthem. Dancing in the Dark was a pop hit when it was released in the heart of the Reagan era (and the last days of disco), and Springsteen sang for a population disenfranchised by ‘trickle-down’ economics and the temporary prosperity of the ‘80s. Mulgrew’s interpretation is a contemplative one, her voice low and warm. When she sings there’s a joke somewhere / and it’s on me, the realization of how political these lyrics are—and how immortal—becomes clear.

 

Long Distance Salvation: A Tribute to Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska
Released in 1982, Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska was his first fully acoustic album. Although the songs were originally intended as demos to be re-recorded with the E Street Band, the raw, honest sound suited the material so well that the album was released as it was. Nebraska is an album of stories, exploring the lives of outcasts and blue-collar workers.

Arriving 30 years after the original, Long Distance Salvation gathered independent musicians to record their own takes on each of Nebraska’s 10 tracks, along with four bonus tracks.  These covers all honor the source material with sparse vocals and minimal production. The Wooden Sky opens the album with the somber title track; Trampled By Turtles bring exuberant devil-may-care recklessness to “Open All Night.” The bonus track, “Downbound Train” closes the album with some of the most sorrowful lyrics in Springsteen’s repertoire, with Roadside Graves singing of the agony of heartache.

 

—Tatiana Maria

Label Profile: Dualtone Records

As an indie label based out of Nashville, Dualtone’s catalog tends to favor the musical styles that dominate the city. Classic country, folk, and the singer-songwriter tradition, are all represented, but the artists and bands on the label’s roster don’t stick to those categories as a hard and fast rule. They play within them and between them, adding nuance, novelty, and even a touch of nostalgia. As a result, Dualtone’s roster feels like carefully-chosen color swatches: all of the artists fall within the same spectrum, but each one offers a different shade. Operating since 2001, Dualtone opts for quality over quantity. Lumineers’ frontman Wesley Schultz told the Nashville Scene in 2013 that Dualtone helps develop “delicate” sounds, and the description is apt. The music is delicate not because it’s dainty, but because it reaches beyond commercialization and commodification for something demonstrating sincerity.

“[The artists] trust us to handle their music with care and expose it to a wider audience, and we trust them to make it.” —Will McDonald

That sincerity stems, in part, from the label’s hands-off approach when it comes to each artist’s creative process. Will McDonald, Director of A&R and Marketing, says, “Most of the time, our bands like to keep us out of the creative process, which we’re totally happy to do. Most of our bands have the mindset of, ‘We’ll send it to you when it’s done.’ And it’s worked out really well. They trust us to handle their music with care and expose it to a wider audience, and we trust them to make it.”

That sense of trust has enabled the label to develop strong working relationships with its artists. “At some point, the relationship is about so much more than the music, because you’re working with these people day in and day out. If you don’t feel like you’re going to have a good working relationship, even if you love the music, sometimes you have to make that call to not go forward,” McDonald says. Those relationships have been instrumental in the label’s growth: Dualtone discovered Shakey Graves when he toured with Shovels and Rope, and Langhorne Slim when he toured with The Lumineers.

With 15 years under its belt and an array of Grammy awards, nominations, and gold- and platinum-level successes, Dualtone proves that the Nashville sound can still be as much about heart as it is about twang.

 

Brett Dennan, So Much More

Brett Dennan

With gritty yet shimmering vocals and a songwriting prowess that belies his years, Dennan’s So Much More is an earnest album showcasing candid lyricism.

He was definitely the first major artist that broke the label into the triple-A (Adult Album Alternative) radio landscape. There’s a lot of politically-minded songs on So Much More, and the lyrics are really straightforward and don’t leave a whole lot up to interpretation. “Ain’t No Reason” is the tentpole for that record; he’s really saying something in that song specifically, but also the record as a whole. I think that’s part of why that did so well. There wasn’t a lot of that in the mainstream in 2006.

 

June Carter Cash, Wildwood Flower

Wildwood Flower

Carter Cash’s last solo album is full of honest songs steeped in the folk traditions that informed her family’s storied songwriting. Her aging, but no less beautiful, voice carries the material into a new era.

Scott Robinson, who is the co-founder of the label, tells this story about going to June and Johnny’s house and actually hearing her play the album on her porch on a nice day in Tennessee. I think the record captures that feeling in a big way—that Tennessee porch vibe. This was such an important release for the label, and we won two Grammys with it. It was one of those records that attracted me to the label specifically, seeing that there was that respect for the history of the music.

 

Delta Spirit, Into the Wide

Delta Spirit

Playing with the spirit rather than the letter of southern music, Into the Wide is a wild indie rock record with blues overtones and a range of influences, old and new.

This was our first record with the band, but their fourth overall. This was one of the only bands that everyone in the office would buy tickets to see every time they came to town—which is rare, especially for people in the music business who end up going to a lot of shows for work. I think they’re such great people and they’re such brilliant musicians and songwriters. It was a no-brainer for us. I’m really proud of that record and having any sort of involvement in it at all. It’s one of my favorite records that we’ve ever had a hand in, and I know a lot of people here agree.

 

Shakey Graves, And the War Came

Shakey Graves

An expansive album that blends the heady rhythm-driven songs that made Shakey famous with sharp duets with Esme Patterson.

Early in our conversation, Alejandro mentioned how important Bandcamp and the community and the people who found him were, and how he was afraid a label would have all these restrictions about where you can present your music. When we were talking to him, we weren’t just competing against other labels, we were competing against him. There was just as good a chance that he was going to put the next record up on Bandcamp and let people find it. We were able to marry those two processes. Because so many of those fans had so much to do with getting him to where he was, he wanted to repay the favor, so we emailed anyone who’d ever downloaded one of his albums on Bandcamp and offered them a $5 preorder of the album. And we ended up getting over 1,000 pre-orders the first day, which is insane. Most indie records don’t sell a thousand in their first week with months of preorders and a week of release. They really responded to him giving back to them and not just treating them like any other fan.

 

The Lumineers, The Lumineers

The Lumineers

An album full of pining, desire and loss that takes indie and folk rock into moodier directions all voiced with Wesley Schultz’s trademark voice and high-spirited harmonies.

The record was a really long writing process. They were pretty unknown for years and years before anything happened, and they were able to take a lot of time and care crafting that first album. I think that record, just the amount of work that was put into developing those songs, set the pace for them, and established the way that they continue to create songs. They take a long time crafting each song, stripping a lot of things back to their elements, discussing every little detail and trying a lot of things out. A lot of that started on that first record, playing it in front of people. The way “Ho Hey” came about—the song didn’t originally have those “ho’s” and “hey’s” in them. They would play empty bar after empty bar, and the handful of people there had maybe not a ton of interest in the show. So as way to get the audience’s attention, the band would jump off stage and actually yell “ho” and “hey” at these people.

The Lumineers, Cleopatra


Building off the sounds that made The Lumineers Dualtone’s biggest hit, Cleopatra returns with a series of narrative songs backed by compelling instrumental arrangements and foot-tapping rhythms.

They’ve grown by an immense degree with all the work they’ve put in over these last four years, touring the planet. They’ve grown a lot as people, Wes and [Jeremiah Fraites] are both married now—those are the two principal songwriters—and I think it’s a much more mature, deep, thoughtful record. I think it’s pretty clear just by the sound of the record; it’s a much bigger sound, and a lot of that has to do with how the band developed on the road as a unit. They played in every kind of place imaginable on that tour. It started out in 200 capacity clubs and ended in South Africa with around 17,000 people or something. They really learned how to stretch their sound and grow it as they moved into bigger and bigger venues, and I think a lot of that is reflected in the new record.

 

Shovels & Rope, O’ Be Joyful

Shovels & Rope

Traditional country folk with strong rhythms underpinning playful melodies, complemented by gravelly vocal harmonies between the husband and wife duo.

They were sort of a big connector for us with a lot of our artists. Through Shovels & Rope, we got to know the Felice Brothers—we put their 2014 album out—and we got to know Shakey Graves. They ended up opening some shows for The Lumineers. Their manager led us to Noah Gundersen, and we became great friends with Langhorne Slim too. So there was a lot of connections made through Shovels & Rope. They’ve kind of embodied that Dualtone spirit as much as anyone, where you grind it out for years and years and hone your craft and all that hard work ends up paying off.

 

Guy Clark, My Favorite Picture of You

Guy Clark

Penned following his wife’s passing, the album is full of raw stories and raw emotions. It’s the songwriter at his most vulnerable and, as a result, his most honest.

I think his style is very straightforward, honest storytelling. His wife had passed, and so the picture that’s on the cover—what the title track is singing about—is this picture where I guess Guy and Townes Van Zandt were cutting up in the middle of the day, getting pretty rowdy. Susannah, Guy’s wife, who was also a great friend of Townes, she got really angry at the guys for being drunk idiots and someone snapped a picture of her at her most angry. I think that kind of says a lot about Guy that that became his favorite picture of her. It was the real her in that photo, for sure.

Amanda Wicks