Musicians Cary Ann Hearst and Michael Trent call Charleston, South Carolina, their home. Here, theyâ€™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 Ropeâ€”a group fusing classic country and rock, funk and folk. On Oâ€™ Be Joyful, the duoâ€™s second collaboration, Hearst and Trent reassert that brand.
â€œBirminghamâ€ boldly opens the disc. Intimate, steady, and catchy, the track establishes, and plays host to, Hearstâ€™s powerhouse vocals: â€œTwo old guitars like a shovel and rope,â€ she sings, tightly harmonizing with Trent and giving nod to the groupâ€™s name. Track two, â€œKeeper,â€ 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 Stripesâ€™ similarly stripped sound.
While one of the discâ€™s shorter efforts, the title track has ample space to impress. It is joyful, indeed, running rampant with clapping and funk, and Hearstâ€™s signature screaming, yet earnest, snark. Kitschy-catchy tracks â€œHail Hail,â€ â€œKembaâ€™s Got the Cabbage Moth Blues,â€ and â€œShank Hill St.â€ follow, and in large part, refresh that style.
Trentâ€™s leading tracks, while decidedly few, send a key message: Shovels and Rope transcend the one-note trap. â€œLay Lowâ€ is true to its title, with Trent crafting a nuanced reprieve from Hearstâ€™s frenzy. â€œTickinâ€™ Bomb,â€ too, finds him at his best. He lends sparse lyrics, telling a tense, aching tale of lust and attraction. Long-running closer, â€œThis Means War,â€ gives Trent his further, firmly cemented due.
Oâ€™ Be Joyful is out July 31 on Dualtone.