Shakey Graves, Shovels & Rope – Sydney, Factory Theatre 05/03/15

He saunters onto the stage in a white singlet, jeans and some serious sex appeal before drawling out, “My name’s Shakey fuckin’ Graves from Austin Texas.” It’s a strong introduction.

Graves (real name Alejandro Rose-Garcia) launches into the The Perfect Parts off his latest album And The War Came, and the dance floor begins bubbling away nicely. A grungy version of Call it Heaven follows, before he shows off his unbelievable finger picking skills with Christopher Columbus.

There’s a healthy dose of flannelette, denim (yes, a few double ensembles) and beards that began growing long before the recent hipster revival at The Factory Theatre tonight. It’s an eclectic mix of people, but that’s the best part about genre slashies like Graves (folk/blues/rock/grunge) – he appeals to such a broad fan base, of which a strong Australian contingent stand before him.

Shakey feels the love and thrives off the energy. In between foot stompers Roll the Bones, Unlucky Skin and Late July he squeezes in folky love song Tomorrow, to which he admits, “I wrote this when I was a 16-year-old shit head and thought I knew everything about women. It’s been a steady downhill tumble since then.”

The guy’s got mischief written all over him. His slow southern accent belies a quick wit as he goofs around on stage and his seductive hip swinging would give even Elvis a run for his money. Graves closes his set with the bluesy Dearly Departed before husband and wife folk duo Shovels & Rope of Charleston, South Carolina take to the stage.

Cary Ann Hearst has big hair, a big personality and even bigger voice. While she and husband Michael Trent may look like another cutesy folk outfit, it doesn’t take long to realise there’s a lot more to them than the surface.

They deliver a seamless set of well-crafted rootsy tracks with a rock edge. With three albums to their name, they play a mix of old and new with highlights including Birmingham, Boxcar, The Devil is all Around and Swing Low, which they dedicate to Nick Cave, “the Australian king of the dark dirge”.

It’s beautiful to watch them weave around each other, swapping instruments and easy banter. They round off the night with Evil and Hail Hail before inviting Shakey Graves back on for a stunning encore of Neil Young’s Unknown Legend.

From the very beginning of the evening, support act Ruby Boots’ sultry country style and sweet story telling set the bar and the perfect tone for the night ahead. For the next three hours we were transported far away from Marrickville deep into the heart of America’s foot stomping south for an evening of murder ballads, tales of heartache and love stories both real and imagined.

Shakey Graves and Shovels & Rope continue their Australian tour in Brisbane and Perth this weekend.

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