Digging Into the Past | “Unlucky Skin” by Shakey Graves


Abbi Wynsma, Audio Engineer

Shakey Graves, the man that can do it all, has done it again by releasing “Unlucky Skin”—a beautiful folk song just in time for summer. 

“Unlucky Skin” opens Graves’ new album Roll the Bones X, a collection of archived songs that were dug up and re-vamped. This track in particular was written many years ago, with the first publication posted on YouTube through Show Me Shows, a video now at 2.6 million views. Everything about this first release displays all you’d expect from a classic Shakey Graves performance—Graves with nothing but an acoustic guitar and a small suitcase drum he assembled. 



In the newer version of “Unlucky Skin,” there are clearly more instrumental elements than its live counterpart. We are introduced to the song with a banjo and, as it continues on, a slight clap begins in the background, making way for the harmonica to start its drawl. Each sound stands independent, but combines to make the perfect experience, giving the listener visions of driving on back roads as the sun goes down.


“Life tasted sweet when I was the bad twin/

Devil himself sat waving me by/

All of my tattoos/

They were of no use/

No monetary values have I”


Graves begins to sing of the past, thinking of better days, making “Unlucky Skin” the best way to kick off an album built on archives. The sweetness of the folky instruments makes it hard to decipher this as a “lamenting song,” but as you listen in, you start to understand the sadness behind the words:


“Bird at my window tells me tomorrow/

Mean ol tornado carries me off/

Pulls me from bed and bashes my head in/

Buries me halfway across the globe/


Won’t be long till I belong/

Without all of this unlucky skin” 


Roll the Bones X has proven that despite how much he’s grown, Graves has been a true talent from the beginning. Sometimes going back to where you started helps you see how far you’ve come. Maybe you’ll be fortunate enough to find some gems in there, too.