One does not expect sunshine and a good time party vibe at a Shovels & Rope concert. Their moniker says it all. “It’s two things and the minimal [stuff] you need to get in and out of trouble,” joked Michael Trent, one half of the Charleston, SC Americana duo who shares drumming, singing and guitar playing duties with wife Cary Ann Hearst. While the songs are dark in theme, they have the ability to sound oh so sweet as the couple’s voices intertwine with their gritty country arrangements.
More used to playing larger venues, Shovels & Rope relished in playing the intimate Rams Head On Stage in Annapolis, MD to a captivated sold-out crowd. The listening room setting allowed them to stretch their setlist and play deeper cuts that don’t work as well in bigger rock club settings.
Kicking the show off with “Boxcar” from their self-titled debut, Shovels & Rope played a 22-song set spanning their three studio albums and respective solo albums.
The duo definitely enjoys sharing a stage and sometimes a mic together as was clearly evident while playing the hopeful “Save the World” and “Pinned,” both from their Swimmin’ Time album.
Hearing their breakthrough single “Birmingham” off of their O’ Be Joyful album was simply a thrill that still has me choked up just thinking about it. Other highlights included another pair off Swimmin’ Time, “The Devil is All Around” and the country blues stomper “Evil.”
The duo closed their set with “St. Anne’s Parade,” a new song which they described as a “celebration of life and death” which featured Trent on the mandolin. It sounded wonderful, as their voices blended into one. Before leaving the stage the couple sweetly shook hands (like the kids in the “Birmingham” video after their “performance”) and left the stage.
They quickly returned for three more songs, the “slow jam” (their words) “Build Around Your Heart A Wall,” “Kemba Got the Cabbage Moth Blues” which had a certain June Carter Cash vibe to it and the raucous “Hail Hail,” which was a perfect end to a celebratory night of tremendous music.