Reviewed by Harry Kaplan
Normally, acts will start off noisy and full of angst and get progressively quieter as time goes on. Shovels &Rope seem to be working in reverse. O’ Be Joyful was released in 2012 and was a more straight forward folk, country, and bluegrass release. Little Seeds, by contrast, is a noisy, feedback laden affair. People who liked their earlier straightforward approach may recoil a bit by this one. Me, however, I find it to be refreshing. There are some straight folky and traditional type songs on Little Seeds such as St. Anne’s Parade, The Last Hawk, Mourning Song, and St. Andreas Fault Line Blues. There are also the noisier tracks such as I Know, Botched Execution, and Buffalo Nickel. This experimentation and exploration of new territory is a welcomed change from the straight traditional songs. Don’t get me wrong, I love the straight traditional songs, but I also like variety and a little bit of noise is a good way to break the monotony.
Although the music has changes somewhat, the beautiful harmonies and songwriting has remained consistent. Michael Trent and Cary Ann Hearst, the married duo from Charleston, still deliver gorgeous melodies even with the elevated tempo and noise level. It seems like they may be going through a little “Neil Young phase” incorporating some grunge into their music. As they say in Johnny Come Outside, “teacher says it’s just a phase, and he’ll grow out of it”. Well, I hope Shovels and Rope doesn’t grow out of this phase. Keep a little noise, I say. It worked for Neil, Velvet Underground, and Jesus and Mary Chain. And it works for Shovels & Rope as well. This is another act that seems to be improving over time.
You can listen to the album in its entirety on NRP and go to the Shovels & Rope website to plunk down your $$ and make a purchase.