Shovels and Rope – Factory Theatre (Sydney, Mar 05, 2015)
Ruby Boots had opening honours and showed just why the powers that be at Lost Highway Records have recently signed her as a recording artist. With electric guitarist Lee Jones carving out some wonderful solos and backing she showcased her songs (old and brand new) of heartache sung with a strong country voice and interspersed with humour and humility.
Shakey Graves loped on-stage with a grin and bounce in his step and he clearly already had a diehard fan-base waiting. Each sway and hip-swivel, goofy grin and wink was met with whoops and screams. Though he showed he can switch with ease from a croon to a gravelly howl and can effortlessly wrestle all manner of styles from his guitar the song-craft was often left wanting. His showmanship outweighed the music yet when he dismissed his drummer and pulled back to an acoustic folk sound things fell more comfortably into place.
Shovels and Rope have built their reputation to a large extent on their live shows so it was no surprise they were ridiculously tight, full of energy, cool and vivacious swagger. They took the guitar/drums duo format to a new level with Michael Trent and Cary Ann Hearst swapping and excelling on drums, guitar and keys throughout the set. The synchronicity between the pair on both an emotional and vocal level was a cornerstone of their performance as they sang to each other as much as they did to the audience. From “Birmingham” and “Hail Hail” to “Evil” and “Mary Ann & One Eyed Dan” from their latest album they tore through folk, gospel, country and rock n roll styles with infectious enthusiasm. Making accomplished musicality look and sound effortless isn’t an easy thing yet Trent and Hearst did just that with added chemistry and verve before returning to the stage with Shakey Graves in tow for a magical version of Neil Young’s “Unknown Legend”.