Union Transfer




Shovels and Rope

Thu, March 21, 2013

Doors: 8:00 pm / Show: 8:30 pm

Union Transfer

Philadelphia, PA


This event is all ages

You could say we were one of the lucky ones, starting this band in April of '98 without a clue as to what we were doing. We were getting tired of the steady punk rock and metal diet and we wanted to try our hand at country songs, or do our best Tom Waits/Pogues impersonation.

The trick there was that we couldn't really play our instruments! I had never played guitar before and Ben Nichols (lead singer, guitar) had only played bass in other bands. Finding Roy Berry (drummer) and John C. Stubblefield (bassist) solidified the line up and being hidden away in Memphis allowed us to woodshed, experiment with different sounds and create one that was ours alone.

Eventually we got out of town, and playing 250 shows year not only made us tight as a band but as a family as well. We are still one of the few bands out there with the original line up from almost the beginning, and it shows.

Picking up Rick Steff on keys allowed us to expand the sound and grow musically. Being able to play whatever we could think up in our heads and having the music we loved and grew up on motivate and inspire us to try new things and take chances. We realized that if you added some horns to Ben's lyrics that it took it to the next step, from sad bastard country rock to soul and R&B and we realized we were a Memphis band and came by it honest. We have always brought Memphis with us wherever we went and this just proved it.

We came out screaming on 1372 Overton Park. Big sound, bigger horns – like a kid with a new toy we put them on everything and loved it! This record was a marked departure from the previous sound and announcement of way things we're gonna be now!

While 1372 Overton Park was written and the horns added after the fact, Women & Work was written with the horns in mind so it was a little less gung ho and was starting to settle in nicely. Women & Work is one of the best modern Southern rock records in my opinion and the song "On My Way Downtown" has almost surpassed "Tears Don't Matter Much" as the crowd favorite... almost!

This brings us to the new record. All A Man Should Do contains some of the most resonant lyrics Ben Nichols has ever written, lyrics that read like chapters from his life on the duality of relationships, getting older, finding where you want to be in this world, and musically we are broadening our sound. Working with producer Ted Hutt for a third time at the famous Ardent Studios, we felt comfortable enough to take some chances with a palette of new tones that sound understated yet powerful, bringing life to the stories behind the lyrics without overshadowing them.

It's also the first time we've ever put a cover song on a record, with a full band version of big star's "I Fell in Love with a Girl", and having Jody from Big Star sing back–up vocals makes it that more special and amazing. This is a Memphis record in the greatest sense and a perfect finish to the three–part love letter to a city that brought us up and made us what we are today.

"I was 15 years old in 1989. This record sounds like the record I wanted to make when I was 15. It just took 25 years of mistakes to get it done." — Ben Nichols

"Having Big Star actually sing on your cover of a Big Star song that you're recording at Ardent Studios – it doesn't get much more exciting than that." — Ben Nichols
Shovels and Rope
Shovels and Rope
O' Be Joyful

Shovels & Rope is a Charleston, South Carolina-based duo consisting of Cary Ann Hearst and Michael Trent. They perform as an energetic two-piece band, stirring up a righteous racket with two old guitars, a handful of harmonicas, the occasional keyboard, and a junkyard drum kit harvested from an actual garbage heap and adorned with tambourines, flowers and kitchen rags.

The songs are the deadliest arrows in this bands quiver. Raw and imagined, effortless and insightful, the pair's panoramic songwriting and raucous performances drive Shovels & Rope's newest release O' Be Joyful. Recorded in the twosome's house, backyard and van, as well as various motel rooms across America, the 11-song set offers a compelling encapsulation of Hearst and Trent's unique approach, channeling their creative chemistry.

Since 2010, Shovels & Rope has been traveling the highways and back roads of North America, logging hundreds of shows and performing for crowds large and small. On stage, Hearst and Trent trade vocals and switch instruments in an instinctive, organic manner that's simultaneously loose and tight, driving their compositions home with a resonant mix of pensive introspection and celebratory passion. In 2011 alone, they were invited to tour with a wide array of acts including Justin Townes Earle, Jason Isbell, the Felice Brothers, Hayes Carll and Butch Walker, and have accumulated a fiercely loyal fan base along the way, building an audience the old-fashioned way.

Mississippi-born, Nashville-bred Cary Ann Hearst and Coloradan by way of Texas Michael Trent had each accumulated a good deal of musical experience prior to their current partnership. By 2005, they were both residing in the unsung musical mecca of Charleston, SC, and began informally making music together. "I would show up at CA's house with a twelve pack and we'd make recordings of Ramones songs." Michael says. "The next day we'd check it out and say 'hey!.. not bad." In 2008, the pair teamed up to record an embryonic album under their individual names. They titled that project Shovels & Rope, in acknowledgement of its high concentration of murder ballads in which many of the characters ended up burying their secrets with shovels or hanging from ropes.

Subsequently, Hearst and Trent—who had both released solo albums and were also in other bands at the time—began performing low-key local gigs as a duo. That impromptu collaboration soon proved to be as efficient as it was inspired. They decided to take their act on the road.

"The whole thing was an accident," Michael admits. "We never meant to become a band; we were just playing in bars to make some money. It just sort of evolved out of necessity, and out of the tools we had lying around at the time. We used to put a mic on the floor for foot stomping and both play guitar, or one of us would play a tambourine or harmonica or both. One day our friend Jack gave us a kick drum he found in a garbage heap outside of his apartment. Neither of us knew how to play the drums (still don't) but we tried it in the show anyway and it started to become a part of the band. After we felt like we were getting the hang of it, we borrowed a snare from another friend which we have yet to return (sorry Jamie). The way we perform live has always been somewhat of an experiment, teetering on the edge of complete disaster. It keeps us on our toes and keeps the show fresh for both us and the audience."

"We adopted the concept of Creatio Ex Nihilo, which is the idea of creating something out of nothing," Cary Ann adds. "That kind of became our mantra."

Hearst and Trent recorded much of O' Be Joyful at home in 2011 during the rare downtime between touring jaunts. Additional tracking took place during their travels. The synthetic bass on the record's opening track "Birmingham" was recorded next to the sink at a Red Roof Inn near New Haven, CT. The organ solo on "Shank Hill St. was tracked in the van at approximately 70 mph somewhere on I-10 between Baton Rouge and New Orleans. And while sharing a bill in Louisville, KY, the electric Amanda Shires was wrangled into the duo's van to add fiddle parts to "Keeper" and "This Means War" in between soundcheck and showtime.

While Hearst and Trent are both songwriters individually, O' Be Joyful finds them still discovering new strengths as a collaborative unit. "The songs on this album," Michael points out, "are the most we've ever written together. Many of them were birthed on the road. One of us would come up with a verse and say, 'I'm gonna drive for awhile, why don't you try to put a chorus on this?' And then we'd switch…kind of like our shows."
Venue Information:
Union Transfer
1026 Spring Garden St.
Philadelphia, PA, 19123