Show Spotlight: Shovels & Rope @ 9:30 Club, 10/9/19

With so much coming through DC on a regular basis, how will you ever decide what to go see? Let Fuzzy Logic help.

Once again, please welcome Ben Kirst. Ben's going to tell you just why you should be considering stepping out to see Shovels & Rope at the 9:30 Club tomorrow night.

Is it already October? Good Lord.

If you lost track of multi-instrumentalist married duo Cary Ann Hearst and Michael Trent and their roots/Americana outfit Shovels & Rope in 2019, here’s a quick update:

*ESPN Music recently highlighted the band’s new single, “I’m Comin' Out,” thanks to a sports-themed video collaboration with independent filmmaker Michael Parks Randa that pays homage to pro female football players from New York and South Carolina.

*In August, Hearst and Trent produced their own film — the appropriately titled Shovels & Rope: The Movie — a project that’s half concert documentary, half Southern Gothic short story.

*This past spring, Shovels & Rope curated High Water for the third consecutive year in the band’s adopted hometown of Charleston, South Carolina. The annual celebration of music, food, and drink featured performances from Leon Bridges, Jenny Lewis, Mitski, Blitzen Trapper, and a slew of other artists.

What else? Hearst and Trent released their seventh album, By Blood, in April. They wrote a children’s book and are talking about a graphic novel. They had their second child.

Other than that, not much.

“If we weren’t on tour half the year, it might seem boring,” Hearst told Charleston Scene. “But we love our little lives.”

Well, good news: it’s finally picking up. Shovels & Rope’s short fall tour lands in the nation’s capital on tomorrow night with a 7 PM show at the 9:30 Club (815 V St. NW, Washington, DC). Tickets are $30. Grammy-nominated blues artist Cedric Burnside is slated to open.

By Blood has earned strong, and in some cases, rave reviews. Keeping the potential of hometown bias in mind, Charleston City Paper’s Vincent Harris gushes that “almost every song on the new album has a moment where Cary Ann Hearst and Michael Trent dive into the muck, coating their still-gorgeous, still-raw vocal harmonies in needle-in-the-red fuzz (that) threatened to blow my speakers...This record (is) easily Shovels & Rope's most zero-f’s-given release yet, which is pretty damned refreshing and more than a little brave, coming as it does at a time when more eyes are on the duo than ever.”

“We talked about making it a big, cinematic-sounding record,” Trent told Pop Matters in June. “We're always trying to do something a little bit different and the last one (2016’s Little Seeds), I feel like, came across more as guitar rock. We used a lot more sweeping sounds (on By Blood), there's a lot more drama...We were not afraid to make it sound big. I think we cared the least this time about how we were going to pull it off live. We weren't afraid to layer things up and go for something bigger. We'll figure out how to pull it off live later. That's part of the fun.”

Um, well, with that in mind, what can you expect at the 9:30 Club?

Don’t be nervous — maybe it’s a Southern thing, maybe it’s 11 years on the road, maybe it’s the need to blow off some steam after sitting in a van with your spouse all day, but Shovels & Rope has built their brand around cathartic live shows that have been compared favorably to tent revivals.

The Chicago Tribune’s Bob Gendron noted that Hearst and Trent’s 2016 show at Thalia Hall in the Windy City was “...a combination front-porch hootenanny, joyful church service and honky-tonk excursion. Songs emphasized emotion and simplicity, eschewing precision for looseness — and any mistakes such directions entail.”

“I saw Shovels & Rope live three years ago,” Spill Magazine’s Lindsay Chung wrote in her review of the band’s Swimmin’ Time record, "and I still consider it the best show I’ve seen.”

That’s a pretty solid endorsement. Visit the 9:30 Club online for ticket info.

[words by Ben Kirst]

[posted 10.8.19]


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