Johnny and June Carter Cash. Tina and Ike Turner. Win Butler and Regine Chassagne. Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon. Music’s history is peppered with married couples coming together to create music (often the music faring better than the relationship), but one of the most sincere pairings is Shovels & Rope. Cary Ann Hearst and Michael Trent are like one person in the way they create sound, and yet are two very different (yet complementary) personalities. Their chemistry is apparent, a love for both each other and their music, and while they seem to be having a ball connecting with the audience; you get the feeling they get just as riled up about their songs when they’re playing for no one but themselves in their South Carolina home.

Hearst and Trent filled every inch of space at Bowery Ballroom with sound and brightness. Each one of their song fuses rock, folk, blues and gospel in a way that highlights every influence, yet turns the blend into something new, exciting and unlike anything you’ve ever heard; even if certain twangs – guitar riffs and beats ring familiar and comforting. The overall experience is decidedly Southern in a hard-hitting, whiskey-swilling, down-and-dirty yet refreshingly simple way. And yet, it doesn’t feel a bit out of place in New York’s East Village. The crowd got wrapped up in stories like “Mary Ann & One-Eyed Dan,” and stomped and swayed to driving tunes like “Evil” and “Hail Hail.” In between, Hearst made the show feel like one big cozy hangout session with friends by telling stories and exchanging just a touch of sweet banter with Trent, all in her raspy, modern Dolly Parton voice.

Shovels & Rope brought on their horn player to round out a couple of songs, and welcomed Lucius to harmonize with them on their version of “What’s So Funny ‘Bout Peace, Love and Understanding” for their encore. While those additions added different kinds of excitement to the duo’s sound, they could easily play alone, just the two of them, for the rest of their career and never be accused of lacking a thing. Hearst and Trent both sing and play the guitar and the drums, switching back and forth seamlessly like one multitalented entity. While they laugh about things going wrong during the show, everything seemed right, effortless and fun from start to finish.

Article by: Courtney Iseman

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