Shovels And Rope: O’ Be Joyful

Cary Ann Hearst and Michael Trent have created a dynamic country/folk/rock album. Their style takes some getting used to, but once you give it a shot, you’re hooked. Both take the lead vocal spot, but they aren’t competing. Hearst has the ability to be strong and raspy, but pretty at the same time. Her vocals are extremely versatile, and not one song sounds the same because of it.

The first track, “Birmingham,” has a very country feel. Hearst’s voice has a bit of a Loretta Lynn twang to it. Not to be shoved aside, Trent brings a whole other aspect to their music. Her voice alone would be too overpowering, but he is a lovely complement to her.

They slow things down with the fifth song, “Lay Low.” Trent begins singing by himself, and Hearst joins after, which is a nice touch. Trent sings, “Well I probably should be, drug out to sea/Where I can’t hurt no one, no one can hurt me/At least I’d be free.” Their harmonies flow with beauty and honesty.

The next two tracks are very upbeat country rock. The fun is short-lived, as they bring momentum down yet again with “Carnival.” This CD could do without it, but the vocals are eerily wonderful. It has a slight old-time circus feel to it. “This Means War,” the closer, is a somber decline consisting of a string section and mellow harmonies. Country dialogue at the end sounds as if it’s from a movie. A child and grandfather figure talk about life before the album closes. The dialogue fits their country/folk sound, but is an odd ending to the record. It may or may not have significant meaning to the CD as a whole. I guess we’ll never know.

Overall, O’ Be Joyful is a lively compilation of folk rock with a big old heap of southern influence. Hearst and Trent do country in a tasteful and inviting way, allowing non-country fans to become interested. With influences such as Loretta Lynn, The Cramps and Bob Dylan, this duo have taken their love of music and molded it into their own unique style. With a junkyard drum kit, harmonicas, and their voices, they have made a name for what they call “sloppy tonk music.” The best of country and rock in one.

In A Word: Eccentric