"A shovel and a rope is the minimum you need to get into and out of any sticky situation." It's refreshing that Shovels & Rope's Cary Ann Hearst can still chuckle through an answer to a question she and her bandmate/husband Michael Trent have probably been asked a thousand times before. "So uh, tell us about that name of yours." Music journalism 101...maybe. But it's a good answer. "Our career has been fraught with sticky situations...most shows are fraught with sticky situations. So, it was apropos."
The Charleston SC based band took us through three songs from their recently released album Little Seeds for our session ("I Know", "This Ride", and "St. Anne's Parade"). It's a poignant collection steeped in acoustic folk traditions, yet cranked up a bit on some tipsy, electric barroom heroics. "Sloppy-Tonk", as Michael fondly distinguishes it. It's also the culmination of a couple of crazy years for the band...their latest and greatest "sticky situation". For one, they had their first child together ("that was wild", joked Michael). With Michael's father fighting Alzheimers, his parents also came to live with the couple. In between their various caretaking responsibilities, the couple would sneak down into their home studio in the basement and record songs. The clock was always ticking...babies tend to have their own schedule. So there's an urgent energy to Little Seeds. There's also a lot of their story in it as well. "What's unique about the record is it's a little bit more personal than we like to get," Cary Anne told us. "But there was just a lot of stuff going on and we couldn't really get around it."
As you'll see in the three songs performed here, such emotional weight is ultimately to the listener's benefit. There are somber cuts. But there is also a whole heap of joy. "We are hopeful people and we are loving people. I think that's our mission from our the little platform that we have. Is to kind of encourage everyone to keep the faith...keep love and compassion in the forefront of their daily actions. I hope that is in our music...I hope that's what people can distill from it".
My name's Cary Ann Hearst. I know exactly what you think you are I know exactly what you think you are You left your little notebook laying on the bar I know exactly what you think you are Everybody's saying that you're going to go far I know exactly what you think you are I know exactly where you're going next I know exactly where you're going next Things are looking good for you, buddy, oh yes I know exactly where you're going next You've got the smile and the style and the sizzle and the sex I know exactly where you're going next Take it all Take it now Call it even, call it even, call it even, baby, take a bow. I know exactly where you got that sound Yeah, I know exactly where you got that sound See, I was at the same shows you used to hang around I know exactly where you got that sound I'll see you in a year on your way back down Because I know exactly where you found that sound. I know exactly how you feel right now I know exactly how you feel right now You're hiding in the locker because somebody took your towel I know exactly how you feel right now You know there used to be a day when I would try to help you out I know exactly how you feel Take it all Take it now Call it even, call it even, call it even, baby, take a bow. - When me and Michael were friends we made a record together called Shovels & Rope. and it was a collection of songs that we had written, kind of all about the same people and two or three different narratives that were happening. A shovel and a rope was like the minimum you need to get into and out of any sticky situation, maybe. And our career has been fraught with sticky situations. Most shows are fraught with sticky situations, so it was apropos. And so that's how we came to be called Shovels & Rope. - We came out of the gate describing it as sloppy talk because we just wanted to get that out of the way, that we weren't the best musicians out there. We're still learning. If you come to a show, it's like coming to a rock show. We have electric guitars. And it's not quiet folk music, but, you know, I think that our songs definitely come from... a lot of our music comes from folk music. This ride, What a ride What a ride What a ride Well, it hurts and it scars and it aches and it twists It starves and it laughs and it balls up its fists It's crooked and it hollows and it soothes and it breaks And it grows and it ponders, it toils and it takes It stretches and breathes. It is lonely and long This ride What a ride Oh my What a ride Well, it calls and it follows and it breaks down your door It bleeds you dry and it asks you for more Shows up at your work and it makes you insane And it loses your keys, leaves you crying in the rain It's costly and violent. it's a sorrowful song But I'm thankful by and by, my love If I'm talking too much just give me a shove If I'm walking too fast maybe pick it on up It's just like Old Yeller and Lonesome Dove When you hate how it ends, but you can't get enough This ride It lifts and it gives and it singles you out It shames and it blames and it forgives and it doubts It inspires and it opens our eyes and it heals And it coughs and it slips and it falls and it steals Your memory, your dignity, your husbands and mothers - This record is a little bit louder than we've been in the past. It's also the quietest we've ever been on certain songs. What's unique about the record is it's a little bit more personal than we like to get. But there's just a lot of stuff going on and we couldn't really get around it. - We had a crazy couple of years. We had a baby and that was wild. My parents lived with us for a couple of years and my dad is sick. He has Alzheimer's. We were making music, recording this record in the house with all this stuff going on at the same time . So I feel like that it was just inevitable that it would kind of creep into the writing, you know. But it ended up being a pretty personal sounding record, and I feel like it was good for us to do and probably did us some good in the end. By the looks of everyone It's been a long two weeks Coming up on the business end of a good luck streak Gave them hell in New York City Headed down to New Orleans And we drove across Mississippi in the rain It don't seem to freeze too much down in New Orleans But the rain can sure wash out the street We crossed the snow line And it was just in time They're digging them out everywhere north of the Chesapeake And I'm up too damn early in the morning Watching the world around me come alive And I need more fingers to count the ones I love This life may be too good to survive. They canceled a parade or two for weather The kings and saints, their robes all soaking wet We were happy just to all be there together Stoned on the porch, smoking all Nicky's cigarettes. And we've been riding down this highway now for all these years Breathing in the dust along the way But it's the kindness of a friend that's what's remembered in the end It is a debt that is a pleasure to repay. And it never feels like we're getting any older But the memories build up around the eyes And I need more fingers than I've got on my two hands This life may be too good to survive. We were dressed to celebrate Your wedding day We marched along on the St. Anne's parade Sang out our hearts while they sent away their dead The sun shone on the river and we began our lives instead. And I'm up too damn early in the morning I can't remember ever feeling so alive And I need more fingers to count the ones I love This life may be too good to survive This life may be too good to survive - We have good friends that are in New Orleans, and we try to get down there a couple times a year. Sometimes we've been there at Mardi Gras. And on this particular Mardi Gras morning, we all dressed up, paraded with... on the occasion of a good friend's wedding, And they had a costume-themed wedding, the Owl and the Pussycat. And they got married down at the end of the St. Anne's parade. So whole costumes. Everybody was in a crazy costume, big group costumes, big deal. When you get to the Mississippi River, a lot of the people break off. And they go and kind of like memorialize lost loved ones from the year, send ashes or sing a song or say a prayer at the river. And our friends got married that day. And so, the whole song is just kind of a remembrance of pulling into town, it was raining, getting dressed up, getting stoned, going out, getting married, and seeing, like, all of life's full circle taking place in this kind of idyllic moment. You know, Michael and I...we are hopeful people and we are loving people. And that's kind of, I think, our mission from the little platform that we have is to kind of encourage everyone to keep the faith and to keep love and compassion kind of in the forefront of their daily actions. And I hope that is in our music for the most part, and I hope that's what people can kind of distill from it, and however they choose to use it, I hope that...I'm just glad that they can use it in some way. This life may be too good to survive - Hey. We're Shovels & Rope. - And you're watching us on Baeble Music.
Necessity is the mother of invention. Less is more. Make it work with what you've got. 2 Guitars, a junkyard drum kit (harvested from an actual garbage heap- adorned with tambourines, flowers and kitchen rags), a handful of harmonicas, voices, and above all.. songs. Hailing from Charleston, South Carolina, Shovels & Rope prefer to keep it simple. They have cleverly managed to take 3 separate recording projects and combine them into 1 cohesive, folk rock, sloppy tonk, harmonized, loose but tight, streamlined audience killing machine.
Shovels & Rope spent 2011 on the road. More than 170 shows and over 60,000 miles of windshield time, they traveled along side Hayes Carll, Justin Townes Earle, Jason Isbell, the Felice Brothers and Butch Walker and found time to write and record a new record along the way. Recorded in their house, van, and backyard, O' Be Joyful is slated for release in Spring of 2012.
At the shows, expect to hear a little something from any or all of their releases - while the duo switch instruments and share lead vocal duties. Also prepare to rethink your definition of a live rock band.