By: Derek Jung
The husband and wife duo of Shovels & Rope have been a part of my life since before their debut album, O' Be Joyful was released in 2012. I was working at my family's RV dealership at the time and the couple spent the better part of two days in the store buying their touring RV. Since then, I've had the pleasure of seeing them three times, and each time the two have been just as kind, appreciative, and polite on stage as they are in person. Seeing their popularity rise through the years has been gratifying for me personally, because it feels good to see such good people find success.
Personalities aside, their debut album was one of my favorites of 2012, mixing folk, americana, country, and bluegrass together with some great harmonies. Their sophomore album, Swimmin' Time, kept the same formula, but didn't have the same magic as their debut, which was fine in my book because it added some solid, upbeat songs to their live repertoire. Last year, they released a collaborative album, entitled Busted Jukebox, Volume 1, artists like Shaky Graves, Lucius, and J Roddy Walston and the Business, but none of those songs were performed live on this particular night.
Madison Theater was sold out, but with a lowered capacity because a number of chairs were set out on the middle level. Even so, the band was pleasantly surprised to see a rock concert atmosphere, and they mentioned this on multiple occasions. Apparently their tour had been, up to that point, in quiet listening rooms, nothing like the audience that night. It had been nearly five months since the band had been on the road; Cary Ann and Michael had just welcomed their first child together in September of last year, and you could tell there was a little bit of performing rust that needed to be shaken off to, as they say, "turn it up to 11". After a few songs, they fell right into their normal rhythm, switching instruments every few songs and rotating in a small keyboard to supplement their beat-to-hell drum kit. They also performed two new songs, "San Andres Fault Line Blues" and a song with a small accordion, which unfortunately was not very audible in the mix. I'll be listening intently for the former once studio versions of these songs are released.
The chemistry and sensuality of the couple hasn't dulled a bit since I last saw them live. The two shared a mic on a few occasions, sweat dripping from Michael's brow onto Cary Ann - yuck! - and they seemingly had an sixth sense in knowing what the other was doing on stage, a testament to their collective talents and also how long they've been performing with each other. For a band that, at first glance, looks like they belong in a dive bar in the South Carolina back country, their enthusiasm has captured the hearts of so many across the country, and they show no signs of stopping any time soon. Shovels & Rope are not to be missed.
Check out a video below of the couple performing on PBS Bluegrass Underground
Who are we?
Derek Jung and Joseph Kathmann -- Just two ordinary (debatable) guys that love talking about music. You can read more about us here: