Shovels and Rope: O’ Be Joyful

Written by Sarah Tollie

July 28, 2012

Musicians Cary Ann Hearst and Michael Trent call Charleston, South Carolina, their home. Here, they’ve certainly carved their separate paths: Hearst, with her alliterative effort, Lions and Lambs, and Trent, with his offering, The Winner. Together, they make Shovels and Rope—a group fusing classic country and rock, funk and folk. On O’ Be Joyful, the duo’s second collaboration, Hearst and Trent reassert that brand.

“Birmingham” boldly opens the disc. Intimate, steady, and catchy, the track establishes, and plays host to, Hearst’s powerhouse vocals: “Two old guitars like a shovel and rope,” she sings, tightly harmonizing with Trent and giving nod to the group’s name. Track two, “Keeper,” rocks and funks with a raw, down-home intro. Harmonica and drums take center stage, crafting a sparse, stuck-to-your-bones effort that recalls The White Stripes’ similarly stripped sound.

While one of the disc’s shorter efforts, the title track has ample space to impress. It is joyful, indeed, running rampant with clapping and funk, and Hearst’s signature screaming, yet earnest, snark. Kitschy-catchy tracks “Hail Hail,” “Kemba’s Got the Cabbage Moth Blues,” and “Shank Hill St.” follow, and in large part, refresh that style.

Trent’s leading tracks, while decidedly few, send a key message: Shovels and Rope transcend the one-note trap. “Lay Low” is true to its title, with Trent crafting a nuanced reprieve from Hearst’s frenzy. “Tickin’ Bomb,” too, finds him at his best. He lends sparse lyrics, telling a tense, aching tale of lust and attraction. Long-running closer, “This Means War,” gives Trent his further, firmly cemented due.

O’ Be Joyful is out July 31 on Dualtone.