Every Monday through Friday, we deliver a different song as part our Song of the Day podcast subscription. This podcast features exclusive KEXP in-studio performances, unreleased songs, and recordings from independent artists that our DJs think you should hear. Every Friday, we present a song from a Northwest artist. Today’s selection, featured on the Midday Show with Cheryl Waters, is “Birmingham” by Shovels and Rope from the 2012 album O’ Be Joyful on Dualtone.
You’ve no doubt heard a lot about this band on KEXP lately. Starting with John Richards’ unintentionally early debut (he was so excited on first hearing “Birmingham” that he threw the record on before the label planned to release it) and running through their headlining spot in the lineup of the KEXP & Seattle Center presented Concerts at the Mural No Depression Night, as well as their spirited in-studio at KEXP and romantic acoustic performance in the woods at Pickathon. Yeah, that’s a lot of Shovels and Rope. So where did they come from all of the sudden? you might ask. Carrie Ann Hearst and Michael Trent are hardly new to the scene. Married now, they began their careers separately years ago — she with Carrie Ann Hearst and the Gun Street Girls, and he with the Charleston-by-way-of-Denver band The Films — and both started performing and recording together mainly as a lark. Trent actually was slated to help record Hearst’s intended solo album, Shovels and Rope, but eventually the album turned into a collaborative side project (their first album together was Shovels and Rope by Carrie Ann Hearst and Michael Trent), and then the side project turned into a band. Now, she brings the twang and he the rock, and Shovels and Rope make for a rollicking good time.
Their second album, O’ Be Joyful, is their most cohesive effort yet and their first to break to wider audiences thanks to its recent release on Dualtone, the fine folks who also picked up The Lumineers’ self-titled album. From the new album, “Birmingham” is pretty much the pair’s origin story: she the “Cumberland daughter in a Tennessee band” and he the “Rockmount Cowboy in a rock ‘n roll band” who first met in a bar in Athens, Georgia, but finally sealed the deal in New York City. (Cary Ann tells the whole story here.) It’s the Donny & Marie song the way it was meant to be made: by star-crossed lovers rather than sexless siblings, and it’s a fiery representation of the entire excellent album. Listen to the rest of it as soon as you can.
For now, check out the band playing “Birmingham” live in the KEXP studio and at Concerts at the Mural No Depression Night below, and be sure to make friends with them on Facebook and read about them on their website.
And here’s a really beautiful performance we captured of the two of them singing the romantic song “Lay Low” in the woods at Pickathon: