Originally published on KDHX.org
As far as duos go, you’d be hard-pressed to find one as solid and adventurous as the Charleston, South Carolina group, Shovels and Rope.
Comprised of real-life married sweethearts Michael Trent and Cary Ann Hearst, the band is a country version of the White Stripes — an Americana sleight of hand that takes its cues from the heartland, gospel and all things rock and roll. Not so long ago, early shows at Off Broadway were attended by a total of 15 people in the audience. The following year, they released a new album, were featured on NPR and gave a killer set at SXSW. The next time they visited St. Louis, they were sold out. And they continue selling out venues everywhere they go.
The kinetic energy between the two is as palpable on stage as it is in these three songs recorded exclusively for KDHX.
Trent is low-key but resourceful, as he helms guitar, vocals, tambourine and harmonica, while guitarist Hearst is the beatific voice leading the charge. With a range that lies somewhere between the charming twang of Dolly Parton and the punk-rock rasp of Joan Jett, hers is a gravely, candied register that maintains its intonation, even when it feels like it’s about to reach a breaking point.
In “Mary Ann and One-Eyed Dan,” the two sing about a couple they could’ve easily met on the road — a folky little ditty about a pair of mismatched lovers who put all their eggs in one basket and try to make a life for themselves together. In a subtle way, maybe the song is more reflective of the love story between Hearst and Trent.
“Nobody knows it like you do, babe,” Hearst and Trent sing in unison on “The Devil Is All Around,” an Americana-ballad that puts their renegade sound to the test. It’s one of the songs where the couple’s magnetism truly locks and turns first-time listeners into longtime fans; you can’t help but fall in love with them.
“Bridge On Fire” starts out with a few, softly strummed high notes, before the harmonies take flight. “I want you to know what you’re walking away from / But it was not enough,” they sing together — almost, to each other. There could be no one else in the room, no one else on Earth, the two are so completely entwined that they seem perfectly content to be right where they are. And by the way they perform, wherever they are together, is good enough for them.