Release Date: Oct 7, 2016
Record label: New West Records
Husband and wife duo Michael Trent and Cary Ann Hearst continue to raise dust on their third album in two years. Sonically it’s little different from its predecessors; a mix of unruly guitars, rattling drums and harmony vocals, with Hearst’s surging voice to the fore. Cut in their home studio, the album’s visceral quality – there even on its acoustic excursions – perfectly matches songs that confront such discomfiting topics as Alzheimer’s disease (Invisible Man), childhood medication (Johnny Come Outside) and the recent church massacre in their home town of Charleston, South Carolina (BWYR).
Cary Ann Hearst and Michael Trent have seen some highs and lows since 2014’s Swimmin’ Time. The married bandmates had a daughter, have dealt with family illness and personal loss, and, in June 2015, experienced with fellow South Carolinians the shock and disbelief following the mass shooting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church that left nine people dead in a racially-motivated hate crime. Echoes of these events resonate throughout the 12 songs on Little Seeds, their strongest record yet.
After breaking through with Swimmin Time in 2014 and showing the breadth of their taste on the collaborative 2015 covers album Busted Jukebox Vol. 1, Shovels & Rope is looking to come back strong on their fourth album of original material. They’ve partly succeeded. The best songs on Little Seeds feature some of the South Carolina duo’s most evocative writing, and their earthy vocal harmonies are as powerful as ever.
On their fifth album (and first for New West Records), Shovels & Rope show that they keep getting better as performers and recording artists. Released in 2016, Little Seeds is the strongest piece of record-making Michael Trent and Cary Ann Hearst have delivered to date. Their sweet and sour harmonies balance off one another beautifully, Trent's rumbling guitar work finds a graceful middle ground between twang and crunch, and they've learned how to make their music fit the dynamics of the songs, expanding from an intimate fireside guitar pull to a grand-scale blowout at their command.
Shovels & Rope offer a raw yet rollicking, hard rocking yet rootsy take on Americana with their new album, Little Seeds. The Charleston, South Carolina duo (who are also a married couple, consisting of Cary Ann Hearst and Michael Trent) share instrumental and vocal duties deftly enough to make more noise than a band with quadruple the number of members. This is especially true on the uptempo opening tracks "I Know" and "Botched Execution," and on the equally raucous midway song "Buffalo Nickel.""Botched Execution" is a particular delight, thanks to its piston-pumping percussion, and the uproarious "ahhs" that Hearst and Trent shout on the chorus.
It seems like even a baby can’t slow down the Americana freight train that is Shovels & Rope. The Charleston-based duo of Michael Trent and Cary Ann Hearst have put out one great record after another since 2008, each somehow managing to top the one before. Their appeal has kept up with the momentum, leading to invitations and appearances across the globe, from David Letterman’s show to Anthon Bourdain’s.