Shovels & Rope

Shovels & Rope – By Blood (album review)

by Woody on April 17, 2019

Photo by Curtis Millard

There’s a reason that Peanut Butter & Jelly sandwiches are still popular. Cause they go great together and they’re dependable. While I can’t discern on whether Carrie Ann or Michael is the PB and who is the J, I do know that they sound phenomenal together and when they release a new album, you can depend on it being fantastic.

By Blood plays out as a book comprised of short stories; telling the tales of ten people; flawed but inherently good by nature. I’m Coming Out is a great opening track; more of a declaration of intent of what’s going to transpire over the next forty minutes.Mississippi Nuthin’ is Trent and Hearst at their best, telling the story of an aged Man’s jealousy at his high school girlfriend’s success as he plots his comeback. C’mon Utah is folksy genius. It also shares its title with their upcoming children’s book about a faithful stead returning families back home after Trump’s wall is torn down. They work in an excellent murder balled with Pretty Polly before closing the show down with the beautiful title track, a loving ode to their daughter.

Death, taxes and Shovels & Rope putting out excellent albums. These things I am certain of.

Shovels & Rope are here

Follow me on Twitter at @WoodyHearYa or at @HearYa

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On albums past Shovels & Rope. Cary Ann Hearst and Michael Trent, shared a similar trait with DBT; in using third party narratives to drive their stories forward. Little Seeds sees the married duo turn the light on themselves in what is their most personal album to date. The birth of their first child coinciding with a close friend’s death; Trent’s father being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and the horrific shooting that took place at an African-American in their hometown of Charleston all weighed on their minds as they penned their fourth album (third as S&R).

Trent’s father’s illness take center-stage right in the middle of the album with the beautiful Mourning Song and upbeat Invisible Man; two different takes on the subject. Invisible Man is one of those raucous S&R tracks we’ve all come to love. Hearst had this to say, “The disease is preventing him from being able to mentally wrap his mind around it. I wanted to speak for him. I wanted to express what it would be like for a man like him, a capable, funny dude. I wanted to put that in an up-tempo pop song, because it’s always interesting for dark material to be presented that way.”

Little Seeds feels more rocking than prior efforts but it is two of the more mellow tunes that stand out to me. St. Anne’s Parade is based on a Mardi Gras tradition and to me, it is a celebration of friendship. At the end of Little Seeds, Cary Ann & Michael celebrate their late friend, Eric with Eric’ Birthday and This Ride. Much like DBT’s Grand Canyon, it’s a loving tribute to their friend and a wonderful way to end an album.

With Little Seeds, Shovels & Rope further cements their status as one of Americana’s premier acts. Their live show is truly a treat. I was lucky enough to see them a four-song acoustic set at Newport this summer with the lovely ladies of Lucius and I still get goosebumps thinking about it. They’re in Chicago for a couple of shows this week and while I can’t promise Lucius popping up on stage, it will still be one of the best shows you see this year.

Shovels & Rope are here

Follow me on Twitter at @WoodyHearYa or at @HearYa

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