Michael Trent and Cary Ann Hearst, better known as Shovels & Rope, pour their hearts out in the newest release, Little Seeds. What I found so fascinating about the album was the fact that they were able to touch upon so many different types of folk and Americana music, but still manage to paint a light coat of something distinctly them. While the songs may sound incredibly different from beginning to end, the duo’s gently massaged track selection presents an incredibly supple flow that highlights their talent and eclectic taste.
The first and second tracks introduce a band that is confident, gritty and loud! While some of the later songs may be appropriate for a quiet evening of snuggling up with your honey, “I Know” and “Botched Execution” would be more suitable for a late night party with some of your closest friends. It isn’t until the third track, “St. Anne’s Parade,” where we step into the chill zone with the soothing vocal harmonies and soft, simple acoustics that frequently drift into Little Seeds. I would consider this “soulful Americana” as Hearst and Trent passionately belt out the well-written lyrics.
“The Last Hawk” picks the tempo up in the most pleasant way and reassures the listener that this album is going to stylistically take us for a ride. As much as this studio project was about their personal experiences, many Upstate New Yorkers will connect with the references to Woodstock and Saugerties in this particular story. “Mourning Song” has a lyrical structure similar to that of a traditional Irish folk tune and tells the tale of a grieving wife’s connection with her deceased lover through music. The theme of birth and death and all that we feel in between is presented throughout Little Seeds, but the duo’s songwriting ability is so hardy that the same concepts are presented in such unique and different ways.
“Johnny Come Outside” is another one of the calmer, thought provoking numbers which has a hook resembling Bob Dylan’s widely covered “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere.” Where Dylan has had an influence on generations of folk, blues and Americana artists, Shovels & Rope are planting the seeds that will grow into the next garden of fresh young sonic storytellers. “San Andreas Fault Line Blues” introduces us to yet another taste of bluesy gospel music, but this time one can hear Johnny Cash casting his light on the duo’s lyrical approach. “BWYR” is a haunting and topical song that profoundly delivers the ugly messages of racial injustices in a world where all we need is some peace. The faint sounds of police sirens whisper in the background of this enlightening and important piece of poetry. “Eric’s Birthday” seamlessly fades into the last track, “This Ride,” and delivers the euphoric reminder of life and love before sending us all on our way.
Whether you have just given birth to a new child or have recently lost someone, Little Seeds will help you reflect. Ever experience loneliness, bliss, heartache or confusion? Listen to this album. If you enjoy gathering around the campfire with family and friends or spending the day alone in a busy city, this release is for you. Filled with powerful messages, spiritual symbolism, and deeply expressed life lessons, Shovels & Rope have created a robust collection of songs that you can play in front of your grandparents, your grandchildren and everyone that you meet along the way.
Key Tracks: St. Anne’s Parade, The Last Hawk, Johnny Come Outside