Shovels & Rope gives country music a unique spin at the Ryman


Braden Barnett

On Sunday night, indie, folk, and country fans alike converged to the hallowed grounds of the Ryman Auditorium in downtown Nashville to see Shovels & Rope. The South Carolina pair have been making waves in the music scene ever since their 2012 breakout album O’ Be Joyful. Touring off of their new record Little Seeds, the band managed to transcend their two person setup to create an electrifying show.

Preceding the main event was John Moreland. The Oklahoma singer-songwriter performed songs from his latest LP High on Tulsa Heat. Armed with only an acoustic guitar and backed by a skilled guitarist, the talented up-and-comer sang his classically cowboyish ballads with somber sincerity.

Shovels & Rope followed, and they emerged onto a beautifully arranged stage. Their few instruments were clustered in the center of the stage, delightfully rustic and seemingly precariously thrown together. Behind them stood several two-by-fours nailed together that served as a projection screen.

Michael Trent and Cary Ann Hearst kicked off their set with songs from Little Seeds, which would make up the majority of their setlist. Other songs featured during the night included “Birmingham,” “Devil Is All Around,” and “O’ Be Joyful.”

Their musicianship was impeccable as they effortlessly juggled instruments back and forth. At one point, Trent manned both a piano and a guitar, while Hearst handled the drums and another keyboard part simultaneously, all while they each sang and harmonized with each other.

Bands like Shovels & Rope show why the Ryman is such a treasure to Nashville. Their music can only be described as pure Americana: the married couple fuse together all the best elements of folk, rock, and country to make a soundscape drenched in the tones of southern America, from Louisiana marshes to Texas deserts.

Shovels & Rope carry on the legacy of sounds that were born in towns like ours. As they closed their set with the tender duet “Lay Low,” every audience member had their jaws hanging open. In the pews of the Ryman, it felt as though everyone had gathered to admire the great traditions that form the backbone of that last century of American music.

Oh, and they started right on time too! Truly an unthinkable idea.