Shovels & Rope: “O’ Be Joyful”
In 2008, Cary Ann Hearst and Michael Trent were two solo artists with a handful of murder ballads between themselves. The South Carolina duo decided to release the collection as Shovels & Rope–reflecting the dark subject matter–and they loved the imagery so much that the name stuck. Now married, Hearst and Trent tour under the name Shovels & Rope, though they’re a lot less sinister than the name suggests.
In the grand tradition of so many folk artists before their time, the duo make their racket almost entirely through acoustic means. “I’m inspired by being limited to just a few things,” Trent recently told the Boston Globe, but even with a limited arsenal, Shovels & Rope know how to put on a show. Hearst and Trent act as the guitarist and drummer simultaneously, and in the live setting it can be hard to distinguish whose limbs are whose. Their powerful harmonies are influenced as much by Exene Cervenka and John Doe of the legendary punk band X as by Johnny and June Cash–punk raucousness but with a country soul.
This year’s O’ Be Joyful is indeed rather joyful, and the band has been delighting audiences across the country on their critically-acclaimed tour. Recently, Shovels & Rope breathed a lot of life into their songs when they stopped by KUT’s Studio 1A, and even the long miles and sleepless nights in the tour van couldn’t diminish the duo’s infectious energy. The album’s title track is the perfect place to start–part sing-along, part rock-and-roll barnstormer, the song proves there’s joy to be had in old traditions.