Shovels & Rope blazed through Nashville on Wednesday, Feb. 26 to a sold-out crowd at Cannery Ballroom. Joining them in this effort were New Orleans based folk outfit Hurray for the Riff Raff.
Opening the night, Hurray for the Riff Raff put in a lively set of NOLA-tinged Americana that had the crowd clapping along by the set’s finale. Releasing their album Small Town Heroes a few short weeks ago, the group showcased songs like “I Know It’s Wrong (But That’s Alright)” and “Blue Ridge Mountain” and also dipped back into older material and “Slow Walk.”
Fronted by Alynda Lee Segarra, the lead singer had a knack for remembering birthdays such as Johnny Cash, George Harrison and a few others, but was surprised by the closing when the Cannery crowd began to sing “Happy Birthday” to her as she was exiting the stage on her special day.
After the birthday finale, it was only a few minutes before Shovels & Rope took the stage.
This is a band that has come a long way in a short period of time and you must give credit where credit is due. My first encounter with Shovels & Rope was years ago as I saw them open for Hayes Carll in Nashville. After this, they were high on my list for Bristol Rhythm & Roots one year when they played two shows a the East Tennessee festival.
Since then, they’ve played several more festivals, been recognized by winning a couple of Americana awards and have carved their own path in the Americana scene along the way. Even so, they are also the subject of a new documentary that will be out soon titled The Ballad of Shovels and Rope by The Moving Picture Boys.
Not wasting time, Cary Ann Hearst and Michael Trent took the stage with Hearst on drums and Trent on Guitar for the first batch of songs, but later reversed the setup.
Playing several cuts off O Be Joyful and their previous work, the duo mixed in a few new songs and also a cover of the Wreckless Eric track, “(I’d Go The) Whole Wide World” during the middle of the set. Tracks of note for the night include “Gasoline,” “Kemba’s Got The Cabbage Moth Blues” and “Lay Low.”
Cannery Ballroom is no doubt the perfect venue for Shovels & Rope. It has just enough people to make it exciting and doesn’t distance the artist and crowd so there can always be noticeable interaction. Sure, the Ryman Auditorium is nice, but when they are in a setting that can highlight the raucous energy and passion the group extrudes, it’s a win for all parties involved. And for this band, it just feels right.
After a visit to Birmingham and Atlanta, the duo will return to Tennessee on March 2 for a show in Chattanooga at Rhythm & Brews.