Shovels and Rope
New West Records
Super Cool Alt. Country with its’ Roots Showing.
While I’ve been aware of the name Shovels and Rope for a couple of years now, husband and wife duo Michael Trent and Cary Ann Hearst have passed me by until now.
Both had reasonably successful solo careers until joining forces under their own names to record the Shovels & Rope album in 2008, and now this is their 5th album and first on the New West label.
Not really knowing what to expect the opening track I Know immediately had me nodding my head and tapping my foot along with Trent’s fuzzy guitar and Cary Ann’s rat-a-tat drumming. The pair don’t exactly harmonise as much as sing in parallel and as it finished the first time I pressed ‘repeat’ which had to be a good sign.
This is immediately followed by 70mph Punk flavoured slice of Gothicana on Botched Execution, which sort of sounds like the White Stripes after overdosing on Handsome Family albums.
Perhaps using those two groups as guides is a little bit lazy; but as Shovels and Rope are just two people making a big old noise; it’s actually apt for people like me who weren’t previously aware of them.
But, unlike White Stripes and the Handsome Family, Michael and Cary Ann sure ain’t no ‘one trick pony’ because they can rock your socks off in the finest Alt. Country tradition with songs like Invisible Man and the powerfully intense Buffalo Nickel; but they can also put the Country into Folk with This Ride and Johnny Come Outside in a way that will make your spine tingle.
One word that kept springing to mind was ‘interesting’ when I’ve been listening Little Seeds. The duo’s way with words and their story telling is intriguing and commercial in equal measures, which is a rarity in my experience.
As a for instance tucked away in the middle of a very modern album is a Civil War song Missionary Ridge that fits in perfectly but sounds completely different from just about everything else here.
The absolute stand out song though is also the bravest song I’ve heard in years. BWYR is an almost acapella song with a tiny bit of guitar in the background; but the subject matter is right up to date, as the couple comment on the race relations issue that is currently blighting parts of the USA again. The lyrics are as sharp as a tack and the sparse atmospheric production will surely lend itself to the song being a show-stopper at the end of the evening with audiences probably moved to tears in the way I have been each time I’ve heard it.
I’m led to believe that Little Seeds is a ‘new direction’ for the duo; and if it is I’m in! While my file for Top 10 albums of 2016 is bursting at the seams, Little Seeds will definitely be a contender come December.
Released October 7th 2016