published Thursday, February 27th, 2014

Shovels & Rope blaze their own trail - March 2

Michael Trent and Cary Ann Hearst perform as Shovels & Rope.
Michael Trent and Cary Ann Hearst perform as Shovels & Rope.
Photo by Contributed Photo /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

IF YOU GO

■ What: Shovels & Rope with Hurray for Riff Raff.

■ When: 8 p.m. Sunday, March 2.

■ Where: Rhythm & Brews, 221 Market St.

■ Admission: $15.

■ Phone: 423-267-4644.

"When the road got rough and the wheels all broke

Couldn't take more then we could tow

Making something out of nothing with a scratcher and our hope

With two old guitars like a shovel and a rope"

-- Lyrics from Shovels & Rope's "Birmingham"

When you see Cary Ann Hearst and Michael Trent perform live or during one of their appearances on "Austin City Limits" or NPR's Tiny Desk Concerts, you can't help but notice how happy they appear to be singing with each other.

Hearst confirmed during a conference telephone interview with both of them that they are indeed and that every day and every performance, whether it's at something as prestigious as the ones above or just the two of them on their new tour bus, is a special "I can't believe we get to do this" moment.

"That happens every day," she said. "We got a tour bus this year, and I wake up every day and say, 'I can't believe this.'

"We are not guaranteed the next day, and we never expected to be doing this together. It's been beyond our wildest dreams."

The husband-and-wife duo perform as Shovels & Rope, and they will return to town on Sunday, March 2, for a show at Rhythm & Brews along with current traveling mates Hooray for Riff Raff. Earlier this year, they won Americana Music Honors & Awards for Emerging New Artist and Song of the Year for "Birmingham."

Last week it was announced they would play the Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival for the first time. They were offered the gig last year, and they were slated to play Riverbend, but a bigger tour opportunity out West came up, and they took it. Both said they are thrilled to be on the Bonnaroo lineup and admit to being glad for the extra year to hone their live performance. Having done more than 200 shows each of the last two years, the set should be pretty tight.

The two met in 2008 and released "O' Be Joyful" in 2010. During a performance, they often take turns playing any number of instruments, including old guitars, a kick drum, a snare, a tambourine and whatever might be around. They hope to slow down their demanding touring schedule enough to record a second album but promise they won't venture too far away from their rustic alt-country Americana sound. They quickly dismissed any idea of introducing more modern equipment into their sound.

"We don't operate that way," Trent said. "We had the opportunity on the first one."

"It would hurt the song," Hearst added. "Some people feel they have to keep adding to a song. We like to take things away. That is our dynamic," she said with a laugh.

"Plus, it's cheaper," Trent said.

They have written several new songs and performed some of them live, but they worry about them being recorded and put out on the Internet, thereby diminishing their newness when they are officially released.

For now, they are content to be playing material off "O' Be Joyful" to new audiences everywhere they go.

"We are grateful people are coming to our shows," Trent said.

Contact Barry Courter at bcourter@timesfree press.com or 423-757-6354.

about Barry Courter...

Barry Courter is staff reporter and columnist for the Times Free Press. He started his journalism career at the Chattanooga News-Free Press in 1987. He covers primarily entertainment and events for ChattanoogaNow, as well as feature stories for the Life section. Born in Lafayette, Ind., Barry has lived in Chattanooga since 1968. He graduated from Notre Dame High School and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with a degree in broadcast journalism. He previously was ...

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