Shovels and Rope are a folksy, country-inspired folk duo who most closely resembles the sounds of The Civil Wars, to touch on a band that is pretty hot right now. Their lyrics on their new album O’ Be Joyful are infused with Christian themes, but it plays out more as a belief and faith in each other. While this isn’t my favorite genre of music nor has this inspired duo become my favorite depiction of this genre, Shovels and Rope’s Cary Ann Hearst and Michael Trent put enough energy and spirit into their songs that it actually grew on me as I listened to their raucous playing.
I didn’t know it before I listened to them, but they are actually married in real life and that connection and chemistry breathes life into their music and in their playing. Cary Ann Hearst plays like a nubile Loretta Lynn with attitude pushing her powerful country voice to the forefront of a lot of the songs to only increase the wild, backwoods infused sound that they still experiment with, as that is what this album truly becomes. This is their first album under this new band name and one can’t help, but be reminded of going to see that new niche band you heard about in a concert hall that only seats 100, but today has no more than 20. In their title track, which is one of their more bluegrass offerings, Hearst belts out, “Aint it good to be alive, aint it nice to be fighting on the winning side” and I can honestly say that they are and it is.
Shovels and Rope are very heavily defined by their rural roots in the deep south, and have taken bands and singers who sound like them and have created a nice little indie-sound to mix it with, attributed to Trent whose side work with his other band The Films showcase this sound nicely. With my interest level peaked by this new offering, they are definitely a band I will be keeping an eye on from here on out.