Texan singer-songwriter Alessandro Rose-Garcia first rose to prominence in the indie scene as Shakey Graves with his debt solo album, Roll the Bones, in 2011. Featuring an amalgamated genre-bending sound consisting of blues, country, and rock ‘n’ roll influences all wrapped up into a single, endearingly lo-fi package. Since his debut, Shakey Graves has become a steady facet of the grassroots Americana industry, exemplifying success through using Bandcamp as his primary sales platform. Much like his hapless-seeming guitar and makeshift bass drum, Graves has become an almost surprise success given the looks of his odds, but now that he’s here, he’s nearly established himself as an innovator for the industry at large, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.
His latest offering—the roughly 36 minute long Nobody’s Fool—is no different in that sense from any of its predecessors. Fans of Shakey Graves know by now the offbeat path that he has transfigured for himself since his beginning. What makes Nobody’s Fool truly special is its position within Graves’ catalog itself. Ignoring its space within the industry which it occupies at large, and taking it as purely a release by Graves released for the sake of producing a rare treat for his fans on the self-proclaimed “Shakey Graves Day” (which has since came and went), it’s something special, something pertinent. Considering that the EP is comprised of previously unreleased demos and b-sides, it isn’t the release that anyone would have necessarily expected to be next on Shakey Graves’ agenda, but ultimately, the exact type of neat knickknack that they would want and deserve.
Nobody’s Fool opens with a demo version of a track that is largely responsible for placing Shakey Graves on the map in the current moment, “If Not For You”. While still featuring the same blues-drenched, world-weary vocals as featured on the mastered recording (originally released on 2014’s And the War Came), the electric bayou stomp of the original has been swapped for a melancholy acoustic ensemble, featuring enough sparseness to accentuate Graves’ haunting and character-infused self-harmonies. The EP then transitions into its titular track, and it is potentially one of the most elegiac studio performances produced by Graves to date, with a wistful, nostalgic croon being backed by not much more than some expert strumming and the beat of a kick drum.
Other standouts on Nobody’s Fool include follow-up track “Oh My Poison”, which plays out like an acoustic rendition of a Radiohead b-side, and volatile “The Wolfman Agenda”, featuring a bridge over which Shakey Graves overlays multiple vocal harmonies to reflect an indelible lampoon of an actual wolf. With its sweetly caustic nature and melody, “Love, Patiently” also stands out amongst the crowd as a must-have, standing out as one of the stronger tracks out of Graves’ overlying catalog alongside the titular “Nobody’s Fool”. Things memorably wrap up with a stirring live rendition of “A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes” that Graves performs with a yearning howl – in essence, something that Disney should seriously consider invoking into one of their actual works down the road.
All in all, Nobody’s Fool is a well-organized hodgepodge of unreleased tracks that would do well for any Shakey Graves fan to have. With the unfortunate reality that Shakey Graves Day has come and past, fans will have to sit and wait for the next time it’ll be made available, but the wait is well worth it. It might be too much of an eclectic mix for a bystander to become fully invested in Graves – most of the tracks truly are deep cuts – but for those already happily a part of Alessandro Rose-Garcia’s world, there is nothing more that could’ve been asked for in this release.
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