The story of Alejandro Escovedo’s rise from years of toiling in an Austin, Texas, Punk-tinged Roots Rock band, True Believers, to become (at age 62) one of Americana’s most recognized and exciting musicians is as inspiring as it now is familiar. But there’s another still-developing success story to come out of the great True Believers — that of Jon Dee Graham, who will be playing a solo acoustic show Tuesday in Newport.
While younger than Escovedo (he’s just 54), his professional career goes back to 1979, when he joined Austin’s punk Skunks as a guitarist. While not well-known outside Austin, the band had a huge impact in that most musical of cities — it is in Austin’s Music Hall of Fame (as is True Believers). Graham then proved in True Believers he knew how to mix Roots Rock, Country and Punk as well as anyone, and he still includes some of those songs in his live show.
But, like Escovedo, he’s also developed another side, another strength, in the eight solo albums he’s been releasing since 1997’s Escape From Monster Island. He’s a forcefully evocative singer/songwriter whose deeply gruff, soulful voice is reminiscent of Tom Waits. He uses it to plumb Waits-style emotion in keenly observational, often balladic, hard-edged songs drawn from life experiences and encased in gorgeously wistful melodies.
At his local stop, he’ll be playing mostly from last year’s fine Garage Sale! album — songs like “Yes Yes,” “Bobby Dunbar,” “Codeine/Codine” and “Collapse.” Still an excellent guitarist, Graham might showcase that aspect of his talent, too. In Austin, his solo albums have been so well-received that he’s also in the Music Hall of Fame as a solo performer.
JOHN DEE GRAHAM performs Tuesday, April 23 at Southgate House Revival in Newport with Mike June. Buy tickets, check out performance times and get venue details here.