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South Carolina duo Shovels & Rope release their brilliant debut album O’ Be Joyful this week. Band members are married couple Cary Ann Hearst and Michael Trent, who present a compelling mix of country, blues, gospel and bluegrass and play Manchester’s Night & Day Cafe on 11 May.

Critics have dubbed you the country White Stripes. How do you feel about that comparison? 

Hearst: It doesn’t hurt our feelings. If I was a boy they would say that we’re like The Black Keys. People also say that we remind them of Johnny Cash and June Carter and obviously that’s an honour, but we all know that we’re nothing like that. We depend so exclusively on vocal harmonies we’re more like the Everly Brothers. As long as they don’t say we’re like Sonny and Cher – even though I adore Sonny and Cher – none of the comparisons ever really hurt our feelings.

What can we expect from your live show? 

Hearst: We’ve got a minimal set up with us both singing and both playing guitar.

Trent:  It’s more of a rock show than I think a lot of people expect. It’s definitely not a coffee shop show.

O’ Be Joyful was largely recorded while you were on the road. What impact did that have on the album?  

Trent: We have a modest budget, but the way that the record turned out was exactly the way that we wanted it to turn out. That’s just been our style even before we were in this band together. We would always do a lot of things DIY.

Hearst: I think lyrically there’s definitely a geographical seam that runs throughout the record that I don’t think either of us were necessarily aware of until we sat down and listened to the finished product.

You performed over 200 shows last year. Do you worry about burnout? 

Hearst: I don’t think we always want to do that many tour dates, but for the last three years we’ve been clocking well over 200 shows a year with the expectation that we’ll be able to dial back the pace a little bit and continue what we’re doing for a really long time.


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