Saturday, March 3, 2018


Shovels and Rope have always been about mixing things up for surprising results. Michael Trent and Cary Ann Hearst started out in separate groups, then with separate solo careers, then teaming up to tour, then marrying, then playing together and finally forming this band. It's always been a combo of both of their styles, and hard to pin down from folk to country to roots to rock. These Busted Jukebox sets are about mixing it up with their friends, and mixing all their styles into different takes on favourite covers. I'm all for it.

There isn't even a firm concept on the album itself, so you'll get Brandi Carlile as a guest on one of Trent's songs, Cleanup Hitter, no guests at all on a cover of Chuck Berry's You Never Can Tell, some classic covers featuring well-known guests and some more obscure one, and more obscure guests. The one overall connection is that they all work well. Indianola (a/k/a Owen Bradley) joins his pal/producer Trent for a slow, dreamy cover of The Hollies' Air That I Breathe, with Hearst's harmonies and a cool banjo line. Matthew Logan Vasquez takes time off from his group Delta Spirit to do a Midwest version of Untitled 1 by Sigur Ros. Americana favourite John Fullbright steps out of character to sing Leonard Cohen's I'm Your Man.

Bigger names include Nicole Atkins on Concrete Blonde's Joey and Rhett Miller singing Do You Love Me Know by The Breeders. Best of them all comes from Hayes Carll, as he and Shovels and Rope completely re-imagine The Clash's Death Or Glory, as a shit-kicking mandolin party tune. You can overthink the value of these things, but when it's a fun listen, that's all that really matters.

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