Shovels & Rope
No matter how many times you listen to “After The Storm,” you’ll still get goosebumps and have to stop everything you’re doing. The fourth song on Swimmin’ Time, the latest release from the Charleston, SC duo Shovels & Rope showcases the strong writing, powerful vocals and amazing harmonies that Cary Ann Hearst and Michael Trent have become known for.
This thirteen-song collection of new tunes from the husband-and-wife duo, who won the 2013 Americana Music Awards for Song of the Year and Emerging Artist of the Year, is by far one of the best albums of this year.
If you’re not already a fan of the Hearst and Trent pairing, you’ll be hooked after hearing this album.
I saw Shovels & Rope live three years ago and I still consider it the best show I’ve seen. Hearst and Trent give everything they’ve got in a live show that’s full of passion, energy, spirit, love, and a bit of reckless abandon. Their studio albums, produced by Trent, have that same feel.
The album opens with the amazing “The Devil Is All Around,” a stellar introduction to Shovels & Rope if you need one. “I got wasted and I sat around the fire all day seeing if I could find someone to make love to / And I barely even noticed how the fibers they tear away from the fabric of my being,” they sing on this standout track.
Another highlight is “After The Storm,” a haunting tune that pulls at your heartstrings with lyrics like, “I’ve been spinning for so long / now I guess I’m spun,” and powerful, straining vocals full of feeling from Hearst and Trent. As the song ends and the two sing “my mistakes they are so many / for my weary heart is wild,” it will give you goosebumps every time.
“Coping Mechanism” is a catchy song about drugs with lines like “I do my best to keep the confusion to a minimum / I try not to be the monster of the millennium.” The song has a doo-wop feel, and the addition of piano is just right.
Water runs through Swimmin’ Time, and in the same way rain soaks through our clothes and seeps into our skin, these thirteen songs soak into our bones. Full of feeling and passion, these often-dark tales stick with you long after the final note of mournful closer “Thresher.”
Strong writing and stories about finding hope amid storms, floods, and sinking battleships make this a standout record. There’s a darker feel to this album than their previous O’ Be Joyful. They’ve added organ and strings, but it has the same for-the-love-of-music-and-the-love-of-each other feel as the duo’s first album. Hearst and Trent whisper and shout, strain and harmonize to get their stories across with passion and feeling.
Lindsay Chung (Twitter @LChunger)
SPILL ALBUM REVIEW: SHOVELS & ROPE-SWIMMIN’ TIME