Sound Advice: Shovels & Rope with John Moreland (March 1)

Americana Folk duo Shovels & Rope play Madison Theater.

Mar 1, 2017 at 11:26 am

click to enlarge Shovels & Rope - Photo: Leslie Ryan McKellar
Photo: Leslie Ryan McKellar
Shovels & Rope
The Shovels & Rope journey began a decade and a half ago, when Nashville resident Cary Ann Hearst, already a veteran solo performer in her early 20s, met Denver-born/Charleston, S.C. raised Michael Trent when he was gigging with his band, The Films. After four years of touring together, Hearst released Dust and Bones, her debut solo album, which was quickly followed by Trent’s eponymous solo release in 2007. Finally, the duo’s first album together under their own names, prophetically titled Shovels & Rope, came out in 2008.

In 2009, Hearst and Trent went from bandmates to lifemates with their Charleston wedding, and over the next two years both delivered sophomore solo releases; his was titled The Winner, and her work was spread across 2010’s You Ready to Die EP and the 2011 full-length Lions and Lambs. By that time, the pair had begun filming a documentary about their experiences playing together with the working title The Ballad of Shovels and Rope; planned to wrap in three months, it took three years. 

With two-thirds of the film done, Hearst and Trent finally adopted a band identity, choosing their first album title as the name of their Roots Rock pairing. Their debut as Shovels & Rope, 2012’s O’ Be Joyful, made a decent showing on Billboard’s Top 200 chart and earned the duo their network television debut on Late Night with David Letterman in early 2013, as well as critical comparisons to other famous couples like Exene Cervenka and John Doe and Johnny Cash and June Carter.

Shovels & Rope’s big year was 2014, with its hugely successful third album, Swimmin’ Time, nearly cracking the Top 20 of Billboard’s album chart, and the documentary finally screening and going on to win regional film festival awards. The following year, the duo released the combination covers/duets album Busted Jukebox Vol. 1, featuring their spins on songs by Elvis Costello, Guns N’ Roses and Nine Inch Nails with help from a variety of artists, including Milk Carton Kids, JD McPherson and J. Roddy Walston.

Last fall saw the release of Little Seeds, an album the pair described as their most personal work to date, a sonic scrapbook of a difficult couple of years (Trent’s father’s diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease; the Charleston church massacre; the death of a close friend) balanced by the joy of their first child’s arrival. 

Whether the mood is raucous or melancholy, Shovels & Rope plays with a passion and intensity that hits an audience with the visceral beauty of a velvet two-by-four. 

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