The Lineup

Shovels & Rope

Charleston, S.C.

They may call themselves Shovels & Rope, but the tools of Michael Trent and Cary Ann Hearst’s trade stack up to a couple guitars, a few harmonicas and a drum set culled from a garbage heap and brightened up by a few flowers and tambourines. The Charleston, S.C.-based couple plays songs about down and dirty struggles and old-fashioned stubbornness. The duo’s 2011 self-titled debut is ripe with images of gasoline fires, hollowpoint bullets, long stretches of road and the kind of heartache that makes you feel like damaged goods.

On stage, the duo switches instruments as quickly and as competently as they trade vocal duties. Trent’s back porch howl pairs well with Hearst’s hardscrabble country smolder. Straightforward structures are shaken up by honky-tonk tantrums and bluesy confessions, all mended with lovely boy/girl harmonies.

In the last year, Trent and Hearst traveled more than 60,000 miles to play more than 170 shows with like-minded folks including Hayes Carll, Justin Townes Earle, Jason Isbell and The Felice Brothers. This year, they’ll largely be sticking to another run of hard time on the road; the added bonus for the duo and fans alike is that they’ll also be sharing O’ Be Joyful, a follow-up album recorded in sessions scattered between their house, van and backyard. —Ashley Melzer