HotStar: Shovels & Rope

Shovels & Rope isn’t your typical two-piece band. It’s more like two one-man bands.

The husband-and-wife duo of Michael Trent and Cary Ann Hearst performed separately and together before deciding to collaborate. Both play guitar, and each plays a menagerie of instruments attached to or at least near an old kick drum. They trade off instruments and vocals effortlessly for a much larger sound than expected.

Shovels & Rope takes its name from a collection of murder ballads, which is plenty to like right there. But the duo’s 2012 release, O’ Be Joyful, is a collection of deftly written ballads and rockers with a big hit of Southern Gothic that continues to attract attention.

Most recently, it caught the fancy of the Americana Music Association, which nominated the group for four awards – album, song, emerging artist and duo/group of the year – which will be handed out in October at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium.

They’re up against luminaries like Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell, Buddy Miller and Jim Lauderdale, Richard Thompson, and The Lumineers, among others.

Agents David Rowan and Brian Jonas of High Road Touring knew Trent and Hearst and realized they made sense together.

“They’re like a one-man band, each of them,” Rowan told Pollstar. “When Cary Ann is on the drums, one hand might be on a-mini keyboard. It’s very dynamic. You’d be very surprised to see just the two of them because the sound is full enough that you’d think there are more.”

Jonas added, “Then when Michael is playing the drums, he’s doing a couple of other things, too, whether harmonica or other different things. That’s part of the appeal. You think it’s a full band and find it’s just the two of them onstage.”

While Shovels & Rope wait for the AMA honors and awards show in Nashville come fall, they’re continuing to tour progressively larger venues and hitting festivals. There will be a headline tour in September and they’re looking at another early next year.