Another side of Shakey Graves at Belly Up Aspen
IF YOU GO …
Who: Shakey Graves
Where: Belly Up Aspen
When: Friday, Dec. 14, 9 p.m.
Tickets: Sold out
More info: bellyupaspen.com
Editor’s note: this story originally ran in The Aspen Times.
Fans first fell in love with Shakey Graves as a one-man band, with Alejandro Rose-Garcia playing his smart and bluesy brand of Americana with a simple suitcase kick-drum and an acoustic guitar. More fans followed as he outgrew that set-up and started bringing others such as drummer Chris Boosahad and singer Esme Patterson into the mix.
And fans are sticking with Rose-Garcia on the dramatic creative swerve of his new album, “Can’t Wake Up,” on which the Texan has woven dreamy new textures with a full band as he sloughs off the familiar trappings of folk music to make a big pop and rock record.
“One of the main challenges of my life so far is balancing this ball and not paying lip service to what I think people like about music,” Rose-Garcia said last year during a 10-day recording session in Aspen for what would become “Can’t Wake Up.” “Not saying, ‘Well, this worked once, so let’s do it 14 times.’ And also not throwing people into the woods, like, “Oh, you like that? Well we’re done with it.’ So there’s some in-between where you can be true to what you do.”
In the 13 songs on “Can’t Wake Up,” you can hear him threading that needle — he’s working in new sonic territory and with a full band, but he’s retained the vivid storytelling chops that have made Shakey Graves so compelling all along.
On the new song “Kids These Days,” Rose-Garcia touches on his artistic shift with characteristically self-deprecating wit, singing “maybe I should give up the good fight and change my image overnight.” In a cheeky music video for the song, he mocks himself as he morphs from campfire cowboy singer into hair metal rocker and rapper.
Shakey Graves returns to Belly Up Aspen today and plays Vail Snow Days on Saturday on the tail end of an 80-show 2018 tour that also included a sold-out show at Red Rocks Amphitheater in August.
Rose-Garcia and his band made the new record with the same do-it-yourself approach he’s used throughout his career — working independently and hopping between sessions at studios and in living rooms. The Aspen sessions were held in a cabin on the actor Kevin Costner’s property east of town.
“When we played Aspen in the past, he was always like, ‘Hey, if you want, you guys can come up and stay for the night,’” Rose-Garcia said.
So when the band landed a gig at the Westword Music Showcase last year, it took up Costner on his offer and spent 10 days recording there (the band took a break to play a sold-out Belly Up show during the stay).
The sessions here in the high country followed another woodsy recording session at the late and legendary Levon Helm’s studios in Woodstock, New York.
“It was really sweet,” Rose-Garcia recalled of the recording process. “So we’ve kept that in our heads, like: If we find a great place to go to keep the distractions low and the inspiration high, we should do it.”