Slip on your cowboy boots and pour yourself some moonshine because And the War Came is here. The second full-length album from Shakey Graves is full of the rusty sorts of tunes we’ve come to expect from the Texas native. While this album definitely has a fuller, more polished sound compared to Roll the Bones, it still has the same raw and gritty vibe that makes Shakey Graves so special.
The album starts out with “Only Son,” which has a solid foundation of finger-picking acoustic guitar and a steady beat. This song is similar to “Hard Wired” in that is feels vulnerable and honest. Opposed to other songs on the album, these two are stripped back and allow us to really hear Shakey’s vocals.
“The Perfect Parts” is a more rock-inflected tune full of kitschy lyrics like “I used to take my women on the rocks.” Full of growling electric guitars and drums, there’s still something that keeps this song from being solely rock. If we’re calling it anything, it’s rockabilly, but I’d argue that there isn’t a need to force it into any one genre. It dances around the intersection of rock, rockabilly and sort of jaunty country—and it does it well.
“If Not for You” is in a similar vein; the electric guitar grabs you and digs in. Lyrically, the song tells the story of after-sundown fun. There is something unsettling about the melody though. I feel like a lot of these songs have two-sides to them. It seems like a heady tune about a party or a girl, but there’s always something going on just below the surface. This element is what makes And the War Came such an interesting listen.
“Family and Genus” is a slow-burning tune with layers of synthy bass and strings. This is an excellent example of the sort of evolution Shakey Graves has gone through. The sound quality is clearer and the experimentation with synths has grown into a unique style that you won’t hear from anyone else.
What really elevates this album is Shakey Graves’s partner in crime, Esme Patterson. The singer-songwriter shows up on three tracks and they are all the better for it. Her vocals shine on the morbid, yet absolutely amazing “Dearly Departed.” This is arguably the best song on the album and the single that really brought Shakey Graves a lot of attention. “Big Time Nashville Star” is a heartbreaking song disguised as a jaunty country tune of old. In it, their voices complement each other and the harmonies they create feel almost effortless—like their voices just fit together. The album ends with “Call It Heaven,” in which the two sing of heartbreak. This song has a field recording feel—as if the two just recorded it in their living room and let us hear it. It’s a delightful way to finish.
I first heard Shakey Graves over the summer when “Dearly Departed” was generating some buzz. After listening to that, I was eagerly anticipating the full-length album. I’m happy to say that it fulfilled my expectations. And the War Came has that rare quality of being at once nostalgic and brand-new. This album will hold your attention and keep your foot stomping throughout.