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Shovels and Rope, Celtic Connections, St Lukes, Glasgow, February 4, 2017.

Shovels and Rope admirably represent folk singers with crazy distortion on their guitars, not forgetting pounding drums, warming keyboards, even warmer harmonies, while baby sleeps outside on the tour bus.

Michael Trent and Carey Ann Hearst triumphed at this Celtic Connections date with a blistering and scintillating performance. It wasn’t all punky exuberance and high energy though, thankfully, we got plenty of that.

But, they can ditch the barbed-wire edge to deliver heartwarming harmonies huddled lovingly over one mic – and it’s hugely dramatic. From their O Be Joyful album, Lay Low was sublime: “If it gets too lonely / I will follow you ’round in this tune” was the lament and you wanted to huddle closer, a song we didn’t want to end.

Their music is celebratory however you may wish to describe it. They share instruments, microphones: they blasted uproariously through some tracks such as I Know, the glorious opener on current album, Little Seeds, then dipped effortlessly into a Garth Hudson tribute, The Last Hawk, from the same record that flows comfortingly along a new country route we found to be hugely welcome.

The Devil Is All Around (Swimmin’ Time, 2014) is all gospel rock swigged down with buckets of bourbon and teeming plates of barbecued steak while Birmingham never sounded better as the duo declared: “making something out of nothing with a scratcher and a hope / with two old guitars like a shovel and a rope.” I bet they could play music with a shovel and a rope and come up with something gripping.

This duo is genuine, engaging, and blessed with a range of vital and memorable songs that they wholeheartedly shared with us –for which we were truly grateful. Just wonderful.


Image: credit: Carol Clugston, Carol Graham Photography