Shovels & Rope – 10/13/19, Philadelphia

Dates: October 13, 2019

Location: Union Transfer, Philadelphia, PA

One of the BLURT braintrust’s fave band live at Philly’s Union Transfer on a sweet – loud – Sunday evening in the fall… (Above photo from the band’s Facebook page.)

BY JOHN B MOORE

For a duo, Shovels & Rope sure as hell manage to make their sound heard. (No shit. – Ed.)

Headlining a series of shows to promote their latest, By Blood, wife/husband duo Cary Ann Hearst and Michael Trent traded off vocals and turns behind the drum kit and on guitar, reeling through a 20-plus song set with the energy and hunger of a band just starting out. The fact that Shovels & Rope have been around for close to a decade made that feat that much more impressive for the crowd that ate up every moment Hearst and Trent were on stage.

The set kicked off with the title track from their latest LP and include a handful of new tracks like the destined to be show staple for years to come, “C’mon Utah,” a song set in future America about a horse helping unite a father with his son after a wall was built to keep immigrants out. Rather apt song for our time. The two deftly mixed in new songs alongside some of the greats from pervious records, like “O Be Joyful,” “Hail Hail” and a deeply spirited “The Devil is All Around.”

As impressive as the energy they put into the show – despite spending much of the past year on the road – was the versatility of these two musicians. Hearst managed to play both the drums and organ simultaneously throughout the set, a feat her husband was able to pull off as well when they switched places mid set.

Several times throughout the set, the two managed to show their appreciation for the audience who came out on a Sunday night: “We always feel blessed that this is our job every day,” said Hearst at the start of the show. Not too long after, a self-deprecating Trent unbuttoned his jacked to reveal a By Blood shirt. “After the album came out, we ordered a ton of these shirts thinking they would sell. Um, they’re not selling as well as I thought so I just started wearing them on stage. I’ve got plenty of clean shirts for the rest of the tour.”

A remarkable show by a remarkable band that proved yet again how they’ve managed to build such a loyal following with little airplay but strong word of mouth.

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