Album Reviews

Shovels & Rope

Little Seeds

Artist:     Shovels & Rope

Album:     Little Seeds

Label:     New West

Release Date:     10/07/2016


Fifth time’s certainly the charm, but there are four previous Shovels & Rope albums that display a steady progression of exciting, idiosyncratic excellence. Michael Trent and Cary Ann Hearst, the Charleston, South Carolina couple that make up the “band,” wildly encapsulate a catholic realm of roots music and influences. They aim to stand out, and do. Although “I Know,” the leadoff track on Little Seeds, made me think I mistakenly stumbled upon a new Buddy and Julie Miller record. Just for a second. Then the S&R innovation quickly sunk in. So did the irony, as that whip-snapping rocker speaks of bands stealing from one another. Thus begins a nonstop stream of infectious songs, all inspired by personal experiences. That Trent and Hearst play all the instruments and sing every note adds much to the appeal. Whether gristly or tender, their sounds are full of heart. Take the strumming, shuffling soul in “Mourning Song,” and its down-home depiction of an unbreakable love between Trent’s mom and dad. Amazing. “Invisible Man” shakes with jittery pop, and the thoughts of that same old fella realizing he’s just not retaining anything clearly anymore. Meanwhile, Hearst’s dad figures in “Missionary Ridge.” He wrote the dissertation on the 1863 Civil War battle that Trent and Hearst used as a blueprint for their stout, respectful song. Fast forward, and one sad aspect of our current state of the Union comes to light in “Johnny Come Outside,” a song about drawing an unnecessarily over-medicated child back into reality. This is heavy stuff, depicted with an at once dark and jangling melody. With the blistering “Buffalo Nickel,” the authors turn the spotlight on themselves, and their struggles with personal economics. Another sad reality banged out beautifully. One other tip of the hat occurs with the hand-clappin’ “The Last Hawk,” written for, and about, The Band’s Garth Hudson, who Trent and Hearst refer to as a quiet genius. Their touching tribute falls right in line with their overall oeuvre. Talk about genius—Shovels & Rope are obviously primed to make a major impact.

-Tom Clarke

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