When: Thu., Feb. 23, 8 p.m. 2017
Cary Ann Hearst and Michael Trent have grappled with a lot of changes over the past year. The wife-and-husband duo had their first child, faced the onset of Alzheimer's disease in Trent's father, and dealt with the loss of a friend. As the roots powerhouse Shovels & Rope, the pair channeled these life-altering experiences into their art, and the result was 2016's Little Seeds, their most raucous and personal album yet. The circle of life is a recurrent theme throughout the record, as the track progression takes the listener from birth to death and back to birth in the album's finale, "This Ride." The song is an ode to their late friend and features a recorded clip in which the friend recounts how he was born in the back of a police car.
The album's opening mirrors the closer, taking on the intricacies of birth. The project's title, Little Seeds, comes from a lyric in the rousing second track, "Botched Execution," which follows a convicted killer on the run. Spitting out lyrics as fast as they can in what sounds like an attempt to keep up with their fugitive, Hearst and Trent reach the song's apex when they chant "All my little seeds have grown." While they may be alluding to the song's protagonist, the line can just as easily serve as a metaphor for the growth of their child. Elsewhere, on "Invisible Man," a trippy melodic tune sung in unison, the duo calls out, "Is there anybody out there who can give me a voice/I hate to repeat it but it's not my choice," as they allude to symptoms of Alzheimer's they witnessed with Trent's father. Another tribute to him, "Mourning Song," is an acoustic folk ballad with piano inflections.
The album's heaviest moment comes with "BWYR," a spoken-word track that calls for peace and unity in the wake of the 2015 massacre at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston that took the lives of nine people. The title stands for "Black White Yellow Red," and the couple urges "Black lives, white lives, yellow lives, red" to come together. By expanding on their signature rollicking sound, Hearst and Trent have hit their stride, bringing a depth and rawness to life's most striking moments. —Desiré Moses