Swimmin’ Time is the stripped-down, grittier, industrious follow-up to Shovels & Rope’s brilliant 2012 debut, O’ Be Joyful. The band’s sound here is unlike what you’ve ever heard from them before, while still maintaining their original energy, with Cary Ann Hearst and Michael Trent masterfully playing through every instrument in their arsenal, plus Nathan Koci providing some tasteful horns on three songs.
“After The Storm” provides beautiful harmony, and though it’s one of the darker tunes, it’s a beautiful story of love. Then there’s the quirky, idiosyncratic story of “Mary Ann & One-Eyed Dan,” sure to make a Shovels & Rope fan out of anyone.
However, even with all the change, there is a familiarity about the music that settles you into a comfortable place. It is less like wearing boots you’ve already broken in, and more like stepping into a custom-made pair – you’re contented beyond your own belief. You are not thrust into a completely new venue with nothing to hold on to. Swimmin’ Time is one of those records where you’re ecstatic to have heard the previous one so that you can appreciate how much the music has evolved.
– Bob Gottlieb