SHOVELS & ROPE – Tickets – Knight Theater – Charlotte, NC – February 21st, 2017

SHOVELS & ROPE

Blumenthal PAC, Visulite & MaxxMusic present

SHOVELS & ROPE

JOHN MORELAND

Tue 2/21

Doors: 7:00 pm / Show: 7:30 pm

Knight Theater

TICKETS BEGIN AT $20.00

This event is all ages

SHOVELS & ROPE
SHOVELS & ROPE
Little Seeds, the electrifying New West Records bow by Shovels and Rope, finds the award-winning South Carolina duo of Michael Trent and Cary Ann Hearst exploring fresh dimensions in their sound with a brace of bold, candid, highly personal new songs.

The 12-song collection, produced by Trent at the couple’s home studio in Charleston, succeeds 2014’s Swimmin’ Time and 2012’s O’ Be Joyful; the latter title garnered the twosome Americana Music Awards for Song of the Year (for “Birmingham”) and Emerging Artist of the Year. Last year’s Busted Jukebox, Volume 1 was a collaborative collection of covers featuring such top talents as the Milk Carton Kids, Lucius, JD McPherson and Butch Walker.

On the new release, Trent and Hearst as ever play all the instruments and penned the material, which range from stomping rockers to delicate acoustic-based numbers. Many of Little Seeds’ finely crafted and reflective new songs – completed in the late summer of 2015 — are drawn from tumultuous events experienced by the couple over the course of the last two years.

“There were two major changes that happened at the same time,” Hearst says. “We found out we were pregnant, and at the same time Michael’s parents had been living with us, because his father is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s. Those two things, having the baby and facing the reality that our parents were aging, made this weird, awesome circle of humanity that really just took us out. I guess we were in the crosshairs of human existence.” Trent continues, “We started putting this record together right after the baby was born. Every spare moment I had I was in the studio doing my best to work around the cries, and Cary would have to sneak up and do her parts when the baby was asleep. It’s a funny thing trying to make a rock n roll record with a sleeping baby in the house.”

Hearst adds, “As we were finishing the record and making the final decisions about what to include in it, our good friend Eric was killed here in town. We ended up dedicating the record to his memory. The beginning of ‘This Ride’ is actually Eric’s mother telling the true story of how he had been born in the back of a police car. With her blessing, we added that to frame ‘This Ride.’”

“Invisible Man” and “Mourning Song,” were directly inspired by the debilitating illness faced by Trent’s father. Hearst says of the former song, “The disease is preventing him from being able to mentally wrap his mind around it. I wanted to speak for him. I wanted to express what it would be like for a man like him, a capable, funny dude. I wanted to put that in an up-tempo pop song, because it’s always interesting for dark material to be presented that way.”

Of “Mourning Song,” Trent says, “I was envisioning what it was going to be like for my mother after he wasn’t around anymore. It’s weird, maybe, to write a song about the death of your father who hasn’t died yet. It seemed like something he would do – write a tune to comfort my mother after he’s gone.

The hushed, moving spoken word “BWYR”, a song of unity at a time when some try to divide, is torn from an event close to home: the mass shootings at Charleston’s Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in June 2015.

“The night we heard about it, we were in Denver and approaching the end of ‘touring while pregnant’, which was pretty intense,” Trent says. “We flew to Chicago, our show was cancelled – it was rained out – and we were stuck in the hotel, and that’s where it was written. We were talking to our friends and texting, and we wanted to be home so bad, to be with our people. These mass shootings seemed to be happening every weekend, and the thought of bringing a child into the world was overwhelming and scary.”

“Buffalo Nickel” takes on the most personal of all subjects: Trent and Hearst’s relationship as a married couple who also collaborate creatively. Only as the song developed did they begin to understand its topic. “We were trying to figure out what the story was about,” Trent says, “and the more we wrote on it, we said, ‘Are we talking about us here? Are we airing some things here?’” Without a beat, Hearst adds with a laugh, “And we were.”

Little Seeds also contains songs that deploy Shovels and Rope’s widely admired talents as storytellers: the thrashing “I Know,” a wryly observed description of intra-band backbiting, and “Botched Execution,” a darkly funny tale of a convict on the run in the manner of Southern gothic writer Flannery O’Connor. Inspired by a concise history written by Hearst’s father, “Missionary Ridge” looks back at the decisive 1863 Civil War battle.

The album also tips a hat to the group’s Americana forebears. “The Last Hawk” pays homage to Garth Hudson, the master keyboardist of the Band, who Hearst calls “a quiet genius, this weird, wonderful creature who can do anything with music.” Trent recalls, “There was an article in Rolling Stone that was one of the first things you’d ever seen where it was just Garth, explaining things from his take. We read it on an airplane, and I looked over at Cary, and she was crying – it really moved her.”

Both Trent and Hearst acknowledge that making Little Seeds took the band into previously unexplored and even unimagined creative terrain.

“It was cathartic,” says Trent. “There were some songs we had trouble getting through because it was too emotional for us. That’s not really how we had approached songwriting in the past — we got really into writing character-based songs on Swimmin’ Time. For Little Seeds, this is what was going on, and it was all consuming, physically and emotionally, and I feel like we couldn’t help but to be very raw and honest.”

Hearst says, “At a certain point in your relationship, professional or personal, you think it’s maybe run its course – ‘We can’t possibly write more together than we have in the past. We can’t possibly live closer than we have in the past. We can’t possibly understand each other more.’ But in the last couple of years, that has happened. We have become even more intimate as writing partners, and in life, collaboratively. It showed me that there were new depths to conquer in our creative life and our personal life and our family life. It’s all deeper and wider than I could ever have imagined it. Which is great.”
JOHN MORELAND
JOHN MORELAND
Some days, being John Moreland has to hurt. As others bury experiences and stifle regrets, Moreland pokes old wounds until you’re sure they’ve got to be bleeding again. It’s painful. But in Moreland’s care, it’s also breathtakingly beautiful. With the release of his highly anticipated third solo album High on Tulsa Heat (out April 21st via Thirty Tigers), he offers another round of the lyrics-first, gorgeously plaintive songs that have earned him devoted listeners across the country.

Moreland started writing when he was 10 years old, the same year his family moved from Kentucky, to Tulsa, Oklahoma, where he still lives today. He turns 30 this year, but he’s been slinging songs for more than half his life. He started fronting local punk and hardcore bands in high school. After graduation, he had an epiphany. “I’d just overexposed myself to punk and hardcore to the point that it just didn’t do anything for me anymore,” he says. The remedy? He ditched his music for his dad’s: CCR, Neil Young, Tom Petty, Steve Earle.

“I think what appealed to me about it was lyrics,” he says. “In hardcore, there might be great lyrics in a song but you have to read them off a piece of paper to know it. I was 19 in 2004, and Steve Earle had put out ‘The Revolution Starts Now,’ and I remember hearing the song ‘Rich Man’s War’ and totally feeling like somebody just punched me in the chest.”

Moreland’s been chasing the chest punch ever since, composing pointedly and prodigiously. “I’ve always written to make myself feel better, I think,” he says. “It’s my way of figuring stuff out — figuring out where I stand. You can’t do that without emotion. You can’t do that insincerely.”

When Moreland released In the Throes in the June of 2013, the album didn’t just charm listeners — it stunned them. American Songwriter proclaimed that “[t]hose not familiar with the Oklahoma City singer-songwriter should remedy that pronto,” while No Depression declared the collection “isn’t so much songwriting as alchemy with words and music.” MSNBC host Rachel Maddow heard his songs and joined the chorus, tweeting: “If the American music business made any sense, guys like John Moreland would be household names.”

If In the Throes ignited Moreland’s 2013 summer, FX’s Sons of Anarchy poured gasoline all over the fire that fall. The hit series featured three Moreland-penned and -performed gems: “Heaven,” off of his Earthbound Blues, the second of two full-length albums he released in 2011; and “Gospel” and “Your Spell,” both from In the Throes.

As word continued to spread and Moreland played more and more shows, a pattern began to emerge: his songs hit listeners hard. While his precise, evocative lyrics often get the credit, his voice — a scritchy-scratch baritone capable of soul-shouting but especially potent in its subdued default register — ensures his lines linger.

“I got so used to playing in bars where you’re just kind of in a corner,” he says. “You’re just background music, and nobody gives a fuck about you. It was so soul sucking. I would try to sing in a way that would get people’s attention.”

For Moreland, that didn’t mean screaming or gimmicks. “If you just sing it like you mean it — like so hard that people can’t ignore it…” He trails off for a second, then concludes: “That’s what I was trying to do.”

These days when Moreland performs, rooms ordinarily buzzing with drunken chatter and clanging glasses fall silent.

When he decided to head back to the studio to record the follow-up to In the Throes, Moreland admits he felt more pressure than in previous sessions. “I just tried to ignore it because I figured it’s probably not a good way to make a record,” he says. “But yeah. It was in the back of my mind.”

High expectations must agree with him. High on Tulsa Heat is a triumphant sequel, pulsing with the sharply drawn imagery and cutting vulnerability that his listeners have come to expect. Produced by Moreland, the 10-song collection features a strong cast of players including Jesse Aycock (Hard Working Americans, Secret Sisters), John Calvin Abney (Samantha Crain, The Damn Quails), Jared Tyler (Malcolm Holcombe), Chris Foster, and Kierston White.

Stripped-down arrangements rooted in gritty rock and roll punctuate and cushion Moreland’s compositions. Tracks including “Hang Me in the Tulsa County Stars,” “Heart’s Too Heavy,” and “Cleveland County Blues” set the tone, trafficking in relentless honesty and folk.

Buoyant lament “Sad Baptist Rain” tackles internal conflict. “I was just trying to grab this scene of being a 16-year-old church kid in the parking lot of the punk rock show trying to reconcile having some fun with my Southern Baptist guilt,” he says, with a hint of a laugh. If “Sad Baptist Rain” is about self-acceptance, “White Flag” warns of self-destruction. “It’s a song about wanting or needing somebody so bad that you’re willing to destroy yourself for it,” he explains.

“American Flags in Black and White,” grapples with nostalgia, and while Moreland initially seems to condemn it, he ends up acknowledging its comfort, framing the past as everyone’s guilty pleasure. He never really condemns or judges anyone — except himself. “Anytime I do write a song that I feel like is more like pointing a finger at somebody, it never feels good and I always just end up throwing it away,” he says.

The album also includes the first recording of live show staple “Cherokee.” Based on a vivid dream, the song explores longing, shame, forgiveness, and love. “I want it to be open ended,” he says of “Cherokee” and his songs in general. “I don’t want to be told what happened or how to feel.”

“You Don’t Care for Me Enough to Cry” proves once again that Moreland does intoxicatingly sad as well or better than anyone, but the concluding title track rollicks victoriously, relishing the thought of a safe place — an idea Moreland says serves as a loose theme for the album. “A home is something I’ve really wanted,” he says. “But that means you have to figure out what that really means and what it is. The record is about those questions.”
Venue Information:
Knight Theater
430 South Tryon Street
Charlotte, NC, 28202
http://www.blumenthalarts.org/

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