Roll the Bones X (Dualtone)
Extract the first record from this month's double vinyl reissue of Shakey Graves' first album, 2011's Roll the Bones, and if you're holding it at waist level before slipping it onto the turntable, the disc appears black as oil. Hoist it up to eye level to gauge the A-side from the B-side, however, and smoky gold veins streak through the petroleum produce. Hidden color wax, that's a new one.
In fact, every single facet of Roll the Bones X, subtitled "2011-2021 Ten-Year Special Edition," reveals boutique touches.
Released to Bandcamp on January 1, 2011, by ATX native Alejandro Rose-Garcia, the full-length runway to major indie releases And the War Came (2014) and Can't Wake Up (2018) winnowed down five years' worth of burning through songs on CD-Rs and then handing them out to friends, relatives, and complete strangers. Arted and thoroughly annotated by the local musician/actor, this month's deluxe reboot tacks on a second LP of sprightly "Odds & Ends," 15 additional tracks stacking this boneyard into a tower of creative realization.
"I hear someone who felt really trapped," reveals the author in a lush booklet detailing the original tracklist through lyrics, photos, and essays as memorable as their inspirations. "In a lot of ways it was a breakup record. My first serious relationship had fallen apart and I was wanting to break up with my life – run away, be transient, and figure out who I was in the world."
Hear said description in the melancholy banjo pluck of opener "Unlucky Skin," set against tap-dance percussion and open-vein harmonica in a stark folk skip and skiffle echoing Bruce Springsteen in its buoyancy, earnestness, and overall Nebraska haunt ("Life tasted sweet when I was the bad twin"). Graves' accompanying description fleshes out the song, especially the visual portrait of him holding his homemade one and only. "It's a dirty little drum bolted to a pole of lacquered balsa," he notes of the fascist-killing machine behind his (to quote Austin's Bad Livers) "delusions of banjer."
The title cut rolls that same thigh-slapping clap as its rhythmic backbone, now drawing parallels to both Gregory Hines and Spanish hand-percussion scholar Rosalía. Nakedly steel strings tickle ear hairs in stereo, kicking down the cobblestones and feeling moody. And again, its channeler's reveal: "In 2009, I was the caretaker of a haunted guitar named Jay Manly. Mr. Manly taught me the melody of 'Roll the Bones' and I have since considered this song a personal gift from the dark. It is a thing I will play forever to comfort myself."
Graves follows up by rolling into a deconstruction of the Boss fever dream "I'm on Fire."
"Originally, I recorded this instrumental as a test run at playing bass," writes its multi-instrumentalist. "While playing back the tape, I jokingly started singing [Springsteen's] horny yearning tune over it and was stunned when it fit together perfectly with no edit."
Moonshine ditty "Georgia Moon," hippie sex overlay "The Seal Hunter," Hollywood kiss-offs "Built to Roam" and "Business Lunch," bleary NYC Bowery ode "City in a Bottle (Live @ 2023)," and the song cycle's romantic resolution "To Cure What Ails..." all still rack up Bandcamp sales. Now add to it the old-timey Ink Spots concept "Chinatown," acoustic gospel snapper and live staple "Late July," back porch bayou bend "Dusty Lion," a proto version of the title track called "Saving Face," and ghost stories about Mr. Manley, which together mulch up a sweet-and-sour bag of gummy edibles. Double its run time, the album now quadruples the affair of the heart.
Troubadour trope No. 692: "I don't explain my music for fear of impacting listener interpretation." Not Shakey Graves. And not in Texas, where singer-songwriters mine the very act of creation as much as the actual outcome.
Music imprints itself on us regardless of contextualization. The devil continues to delight in the details – some of those alma mater anthems call for a shallow grave – but songs echo down our inner hallways no matter the dossier on them, sticking if they ricochet off our internal tuning fork in personal harmony. This director's commentary only enriches its source.
"I have always loved the concept of a first album. That initial step onto a path big or small, accidental or intentional. It is always significant and cannot be replicated or replaced. In that sense, I have been incredibly precious about my own first album even long before it existed," surmises Shakey Graves.
Roll the Bones X doesn't merely spin a lo-fi audio tattoo. In the midst of pandemic, it unfolds a photo album and novella and film – a home movie of our universal 20s in all their death-defying vulnerability, heartbreak, and surrealist misadventures. – Raoul Hernandez
Apple Music, SoundCloud, Spotify, YouTube
Grammy-winning producer, songwriter, and pianist Antwoine Collins raises a plastic red cup to youthful rowdiness on latest single "Naughty." Having directed acts such as Frank Ocean (Endless) and Californian Doja Cat (breakout video "Mooo!"), the versatile Austinite creates his own beat full of plush chords while delivering a catchy, vapor-filled chorus prime for any smoky get-together. As Troy Nōka, he's a capable rapper in his own right as he begins with a playful tone in the first verse ("Just came here to chill, like Ron Isley") before tackling far more serious sentiments in the second act: "Pass me the 40/ Pour some out for my homies/ When they gone, feelin' lonely/ Why it go like that?" The retro-tinged "Naughty" received notable inclusion in the Linda Perry-curated soundtrack for Hulu's Kid 90 documentary. – Derek Udensi
Bandcamp, Spotify, YouTube
Pleasure Venom hits like a car crash in latest thrasher "We Get What You Deserve," a pummeling clamor against racial capitalism. "Getting tired of living this shit," Audrey Campbell spits, kick-starting guitarist Chase Dungan's siren squall. State-sanctioned violence rages on and a new Black death trends on Twitter every day, so that pretty much sums it up. Burning crosses and marching protesters flash through the accompanying video, the chaos of past and present combining into one dizzying visual. Directed by the Austin band as well as Don Ray Hermes and Ismael Quintanilla III, the clip positions Proud Boys and civil rights activists back to back, and suddenly, the "we" and "you" become clear. The punk banshee sits atop it all, shrieking from a throne with a crown, scepter, and her trademark black lipstick. "I just want to go outside and play with my friends, but misinformation causes severe unrest all over the unknown pavement," she intones on the slowed bridge; when you're perceived as a threat, there's always a threat to you. As the flames dissipate, Campbell's left alone, armed, with blood on her face. Her image fades into the stars and stripes. Just another day in America. – Carys Anderson
Hilariously, the art for the Riverboat Gamblers' first new music in a year depicts a fire-consumed yacht. That syncs up with Austin's finest punk band emerging from lockdown with Gerry Rafferty's yacht rock standard "Right Down the Line," because if these guys are manning the wheel, the boat in question is a garbage scow with a NASA rocket engine. Their attack on the Scottish troubadour's top 20 U.S. hit of 1978 burns with their customary Detroit 1969-meets-1981 hardcore ferocity as Mike Wiebe laces up his crooner shoes, while guitarists Fadi El-Assad and Ian MacDougall assault the core riff with distortion and wah-wah abuse. Bassist Rob Marchant and drummer Ian Walling then finish off the dirty job with some kerosene-grade pummel. A Giant Dog/Sweet Spirit spark plug Sabrina Ellis provides guest wails, Ryan Monroe from Band of Horses mans the organ, and Stuart Sikes produces. Helluva way to rub your vaccination bump and adjust your mask. – Tim Stegall
On 2018 sophomore LP Old Love, Danny Golden rolled dusky, meditative odes, but the local songwriter shifts gears with Changes. The four-song extended play kicks off with a hearty percussion via paradoxically titled opener "I Can't Change," pounding into a roar of fuzzed guitar humming in the background. The John Michael Landon-produced track, along with fellow front-side single "Alien," surges in a power-pop direction, yet the draw for Golden is still his sleepy, understated vocals and sharp-hooked lyrics. The B-side double shot settles back down, with David Ramirez helming the boards for the gorgeously faded melancholy of "L.A. County" and "Cigarettes & Sunburn," which moans out a melody like Bright Eyes' "Lua" slowed down to the lingering memory of a boardwalk stroll. – Doug Freeman
YouTube, Tuesday 4, 8pm
When the COVID-induced cancellation of South by Southwest 2020 and the subsequent pandemic voided in-person gatherings, East Austin rhymer J Soulja and DJ Napalm took their Smoke Out ATX concert series online in the form of Behind the Song. Live or livestream, the endeavor still aims to educate viewers on Central Texas' rising hip-hop/R&B talent by packaging each episode with an artist interview and uncut studio performance of several songs. A new partnership with local livestream production company Safehouse means a live production broadcast on the Safehouse ATX YouTube page. Unlike prior BTS episodes, this event will spotlight five artists instead of the usual one. Young ATX crooner Teddythelegacy, Freequency WC, and San Antonio's Marshé highlight the bill. Attentive viewers can win giveaways during the stream by correctly answering trivia questions based on tidbits revealed by performers during the broadcast. – Derek Udensi
Facebook, Thursday 6, 7:30pm
"Everybody turns a bad trick now and then," Ray Wylie Hubbard stoically assesses in opening last year's loaded Co-Starring, the song an apt lament of a brutal year that surely left the album underrecognized. The LP serves as somewhat of a capstone to the raw Wimberley songwriter's two-decade resurgent stampede, wrangling powerhouse friends (Joe Walsh, Ringo Starr, Don Was, and Pam Tillis) along with rising stars influenced by Hubbard's incomparable blues ballads (Aaron Lee Tasjan and Larkin Poe). RWH's not slowing down, though, but rather just beginning to receive the broader appreciation he deserves. Waterloo Records hosts the storyteller as they continue their run of livestreams for notable 2020 releases, before he takes stage the following night at the Haute Spot in Cedar Park. – Doug Freeman
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