It can’t be easy working as a duo. In a band, there are plenty of bodies around to share the blame; as a solo act, every screw-up is a mea culpa. In a duo, there’s only one other person to cast your aspersions upon. Look at the Civil Wars; the twosome went all North/South before their new album was released, citing “differing ambitions.” (What does that even mean?)
Now consider the plight of the married duo. Personal problems follow you around on tour, professional problems haunt your home life and there’s never any break from your spouse/bandmate. Somehow Michael Trent and Cary Ann Hearst have made it work because Shovels & Rope has quickly become one of the hottest Americana acts in the country. The couple’s popularity is particularly pointed in the Cincinnati area; their last few shows in the area have been sell-outs (or nearly so) and, as a result, they seem to be making regular stops here to capitalize on their spiking local popularity.
One spin through O’ Be Joyful, Shovels & Rope’s 2012 quasi-debut (Trent and Hearst recorded an album together in 2010 under their own names, which was titled Shovels & Rope), provides plenty of evidence as to what keeps drawing the faithful and converting the uninitiated. Ranging from twangy Folk to amped-up Country to full-bore Americana stomp, Shovels & Rope channel John Doe and Exene Cervenka channeling Timbuk 3 channeling Johnny Cash and June Carter. That’s a whole lot of channels, but as long as Shovels & Rope is holding the remote, there is definitely something on.
SHOVELS & ROPE plays with Shakey Graves Tuesday, Sept. 14 in the Sanctuary Room at Newport's Southgate House Revival. Buy tickets, check out performance times and get venue details here.