Shovels and Rope Live Review
I don’t know why I ever wasted my time on musicians who don’t go for it.
I used to believe that the world began and ended with Ani Difranco. After all, when I was 15 she gave me my first set of wings. When I heard the lyric, “we are made to fight and fuck and talk and fight again,” I knew that I was free. Not only did her words blow my mind, so did her ferocious work ethic. “Give it all up,” she commands in her song “Make Me Stay,” “or don’t give it to me at all.” I have, of course, since learned that Ani DiFranco isn’t the only musician in the world who kicks ass. But I am embarrassed to admit that I did stray, as a listener, from those who do. I got comfortable, see? Complacent, patient even, with what I was listening to. Patient?
Life is too short to be patient with musicians who don’t give it all up.
Shovels and Rope give it all up. They go for it. They kick ass. They’ve got the work ethic of a starving, lonesome cowboy and the sound of one, too. S & R played the Axe and Fiddle in Cottage Grove, Oregon on July 31st, the release day of their new record, “O’ Be Joyful.” Indie-grass hipsters abounded that night at the Axe. They filled every table with their dresses and boots, mustaches and vests.
I drank whiskey and got joyful.
Cary Ann Hearst and Michael Trent were both carving out solo careers when they met and warily but joyfully joined forces. They released an album in 2008 called “Shovels and Rope” and then they became a band called Shovels and Rope. (The tune “Birmingham” off their new record details and derails that story.) When they played that tune last night at the Axe, I tell you, not only the bar but Birmingham itself caught fire.
Watching Cary Ann and Michael is mesmerizing. You know you are bearing witness to true love and a birth of creativity. Hundreds of shows under their belts as a duo, Hearst and Trent are road warriors, to be sure. Yet there is still something enigmatic about what they are doing, something rich in improvisation, something wild and mysterious. There is lust and death and triumph and loss. Shovels and Rope conjure up the ghosts in bowlers of the old South and fresh ink upon the breast of the new West. And boy howdy, are they joyful.
There were only three things that I was disappointed with last night and I’ll list them in order of least offensive to most offensive. First, while their strumming, singing, and musicality was bang on, Trent’s heavy foot on the kick drum dragged ever so slightly from time to time. (Sorry, Michael, I’m a music teacher; it’s my job to notice these things.) Second, for crying out loud! When these guys are crying out loud, I want to hear what they are saying. Please, please, please, if you ever do sound for S & R, don’t bury the vocals in the mix. And finally, damn it, Shovels and Rope give it all up. The least you can do is buy their cd after you shake your boot-clad booty all night.
If you want to see what hard working musicians looks like, go see Shovels and Rope. If you want to hear what original music sounds like, go see Shovels and Rope. If you want to know what Americana feels like, go see Shovels and Rope.
I’ll tell you what. You can stop being patient with me. I’ll put it plain. Go see Shovels and Rope.
And make sure you take what they give you.
This is the first tune that I tuned into: