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Owning arguably the most popular album on Bandcamp, Shakey Graves has done quite a bit since the release of Roll the Bones back in 2011. Backed by fanatic fans won over during multiple music festivals and shows, word of mouth, and a sizeable Reddit following, Alejandro Rose-Garcia exudes good time feels amongst a vibrant blues and folk based approach that often features him playing distinctly solo with his makeshift suitcase drum or with good friend and And The War Came producer Chris Boosahda (drums). Sporting a good natured smile with less than regal anecdotes in the majority on his tunes Alejandro comes across immensely personable and has a reputation for such. Having seen him twice most recently myself (Sasquatch/Pickathon), I can tell you that the Graves fever is real with the only knock being the question everyone has been asking: when is this guy going to come out with new material? Thankfully the answer is now and an album over two years in the making is here.
As jovial as Garcia is on stage, And The War Came is an album of distinct moods and different flavors. Fans keen only on the straightforward indie rockabilly may be taken slightly back on initial listen but the reality is that And The War Came is exactly the album Alejandro needed and showcases a forward path in the evolution of his songwriting. The album starts slowly with "Other Son" an engaging piece of songwriting that is rather meditative in lyric before launching into classic Shakey further on in the album. A duet featuring Esme Patterson (Paper Bird), "Dearly Departed" is an excellent haunting of a good time tune of music and an early favorite. Patterson is featured noticeably on at least 3 tracks on And The War Came and the pairing works amicably for the most part as Patterson comes across as a stern sensible vocal presence to offset Alejandro's playfulness. "The Perfect Parts" is similarly sublime and one that fans will immediately recognize from live shows where Alejandro emanates undeniable emotion. As hard as that is to capture in the studio, producer Chris Boosahda has done a stellar job deserves recognition.
The gems keep on coming with "Hard Wired" and "Family and Genus," the latter being easily the most modern and full piece Shakey has put together with slicing violins, echoing drums, and some seriously enjoyable midnight tones. "Big Time Nasville Star" is the lone dud with an acapella intro by both Alejandro and Esme. Lyrically the song is just a bit too innately country but it's worth noting that Alejandro's guitar track in particular is still engagingly enjoyable. "House of Winston," is a faster track albeit with the same rhetorical potency of the opening "Other Son". Slide guitars hang overhead and bring an overture like presence to the uncertain drama that is to follow. The rest of the album rounds out nicely with the rocker "If Not For You" and the best of the Patterson duets "Call it Heaven," a raw piece that's raw sound resonates until you've started the album over again out of sheer curiousity.
While not as bare bones as a few die hard fans might want, Shakey has managed to carefully combine different elements of folk, rock, country, and blues into a melting pot of charismatic and witty success.