While most musical duos are steeped in the acoustic guitars and vocal harmonies vein of Simon and Garfunkel and Indigo Girls, there’s still a few duos who exist in the “generates more sound than just two people should be able to” vein of The White Stripes, The Kills and The Black Keys. You can definitely add Shovels & Rope to the latter list. Hailing from Charleston, SC, Shovels & Rope is the combined creative efforts of Cary Ann Hearst and Michael Trent, two solo artists who have found a certain type of musical magic together. Their sophomore release, O’ Be Joyful, is set for a July 31 release date and to help bring you up to speed, they’ve compiled an incredible 10-song sampler exclusively for NoiseTrade fans.
Filled with tracks from their debut release and some of their most recent solo albums, this Shovels & Rope sampler is spilling over with great backwoods country-flavored, garage-folk set to the tune of a couple of guitars, some harmonicas and a customized junkyard drum set. Cary Ann and Michael trade off vocals and instruments to create a unique sound that perfectly sells their songs of love gone wrong, deals gone bad, down and out characters, liquor-induced shenanigans and the peculiarities of Southern living. They even have a few songs covering my personal favorites of the country music sub-genres, murder ballads and train songs. No matter the topic though, they seem to sing every line with a sly smile and play each note with a bouncy sway. I love the songs they chose for the sampler and if you want to search out the albums they came from, “Gasoline,” “Boxcar,” “Magdelina” and “Hollowpoint Blues” came from their self-titled debut, “Hell’s Bells,” “The Thread” and “Who’s Gonna Raise These Babies” came from Cary Ann’s solo album Lions and Lambs and “The Winner,” “Bad Luck” and “When I…” came from Michael’s solo album The Winner.
In my opinion, “Bad Luck,” “Hell’s Bells” and “Who’s Gonna Raise These Babies” are great places to start when sampling Shovels & Rope. Cary Ann’s Loretta-like rasp and Michael’s smooth twang sound amazing on their own and when they sing together it gets even better. As Johnny and June, Dolly and Porter, Loretta and Conway and many more have shown us, country music was made for duets and Shovels & Rope continue in that grand tradition. Granted it’s in a more unpolished, ramshackle, distorted bullet-mic vocal kind of way, but it’s still just as beautiful. So go fill you up a mason jar with your favorite beverage, download the sampler and dance along to Shovels & Rope. Also, keep your eyes and ears out for their next album, O’ Be Joyful coming out July 31.