Following up what some consider a modern-day, lo-fi masterpiece Roll The Bones, Alejandro Rose-Garcia (Shakey Graves) returns with a new LP, And the War Came, (he released an EP, Doner Blues, in 2012). For good reason, a decent amount of hype accompanies his new release. Not only is Rose-Garcia a gifted folk singer, but he can blend the elements of blues rock and old-fashioned, foot stomping country and produce a sound that is as contemporary as it is nostalgic.
After a 7 second opening track, “Only Son” brings the goods with plenty of finger snaps and hand claps to go around, not to mention that wounded sounding voice…this is country music that I can get behind (no honky-tonk badonkadonks to be found in these parts). “Dearly Departed” continues the trend, this time with ole’ Shakey dueting with Paper Bird’s Esme Patterson; a perfect fit for his tired voice.
Then, the blues rock stomp in “The Perfect Parts” rounds out a great start! After a rocking first third, the middle wanes a bit. “Family and Genus” may be another straight forward folk song at its core, but Shakey tries to color the track with synths and other effects that just come across as, well, extra. Overall, the ‘Kurt Vile’ style of crafting does not suit Shakey Graves; he is much more powerful and immediate with the country folk sound than this experimental approach. Although it’s muddled with a lot of ‘wank’ as my Brit friends would say, it still a good song. In fact, “House Of Winston” is the only track that I would say is nothing to write home about.
The rest of the songs, while never reaching the highs of the first 3 songs, certainly try their little hearts out. “Pansy Waltz” has a sing-along kind of feel for a drunk night at the bar. The accompanying duets with Ms. Patterson include “Big Time Nashville Star”, an old school country jam, right out of Coal Miners Daughter, and “Call It Heaven” a lo-fi, 1920’s sounding ditty; both are both pretty good, but not up to the standards of “Dearly Departed” on the first third. While there are some minor stumbles to be found, all the tracks are well-written in their own way. Although And the War Came does not quite live up to its predecessor, it maintains its intimate ambience and is a thoroughly enjoyable album.
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