Album Review: Shakey Graves – Roll The Bones

I really had to give this album a second chance. Many of you who will read this review will likely have to do so as well. The reality is that folk is not the most popular genre out there at the moment, and as musically open-minded as we may all claim to be, making the transition into a new genre is not always easy. Although groups such as Mumford and the punk rock Flogging Molly enjoy worldwide popularity with their tunes (European folk is a huge influence on American Folk), not many people are familiar with a true, traditional folk sound, as we are used to a more commercial, watered-down version of it.

What I failed to realize the first time around was that although they have very little in common musically, the album shares a huge similarity with my two previous hip-hop reviews. The Cunninlynguists and Mr. Green take listeners on a big city journey, while indie-folk songwriter Shakey Graves does exactly that in Roll the Bones, but rather on a rural experience unfamiliar to many of us, with the overall traditional folk sound incorporated into his writing. I urge all readers to find the time to gives the album a few listens during any available time away from friends, family, work, etc. The record is not particularly new, as it was released about three years ago. Recently, however, Roll the Bones has been on the top sellers list on Bandcamp for a while now.

Opening tracks “Unlucky Skin” and “Built to Roam” begin to introduce the isolated country feel, with nothing but banjo & harmonica on odd time signatures on the first track, and guitar & bass on the second. The simplicity of the tracks keeps you from being overwhelmed and allows you to enjoy the fun vocals and lyrics with ease. The production of the two tracks seems to be a bit inconsistent, which is a bit of an interesting twist. The title track, “Roll the Bones” captures the minds of listeners with a mesmerizing guitar throughout, accompanying some almost mystifying lyrics, inviting city-boys to leave behind the stressful life of materialism and money and almost make you want to migrate to rural Texas.

“I’m on fire” is the next track, and is a short and simple Bruce Springsteen cover, which is seemingly about a burning painful sexual desire towards a particular young lady. Also a short little fun track with some very strong imagery. “Georgia Moon” to me is a standout track on the album. The guitar on the track is played with great feeling, blending perfectly with the moonshine inspired lyrics, sung in an equally heartfelt fashion. “Business Lunch” is also a standout, as a somewhat surreal track with its catchy guitar riff and “drop your work and party” attitude, without sounding like a rebellious middle-class teen. The song also seems lean more towards an indie style of both music and production, more so that any other song on the record.

The next track, “City in a Bottle”, is wonderfully produced, especially considering that it is a live track. It is one of the darker and overall bigger songs on the album. The song itself is not necessarily great, but provides variation to the record, and does it well (partly due to the addition of horns on the track). The album continues strong with “Proper Fence”, a rather melancholy love song to keep the mind intrigued. This is one of the many tracks on the album with guitar-playing so great that an instrumental version would be just as enjoyable. The album’s intensity begins to die down, while tension increases simultaneously with the track “The Seal Hunter”.

The tension then fades away with the last track, “To cure what ails”, a perfect relaxed ending to the journey through the life of your new buddy, Shakey Graves. The song, much like the rest of the album, brings back your basic needs, such as love, that we may tend to ignore at times throughout our short lives. Regardless, you won’t have to look this deeply into the themes of the record to enjoy it. I highly recommend giving the record a try, and maybe a couple more if you are not completely convinced, as was my case. The album is available on the link below for all individuals to enjoy, and don’t forget to keep supporting independent music! And if you aren’t already, it’s never too late.

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