Video: Shovels & Rope Perform “Coping Mechanism” on Letterman

 

First Wade Bowen on Conan earlier this week and now another great country act got a chance to perform on the national stage. The fantastic duo of Cary Ann Hearst and Michael Trent of Shovels & Rope performed “Coping Mechanism,” a finalist for Country Perspective’s 2014 Song of the Year, off of their phenomenal 2014 album Swimmin’ Time, which was also a finalist for Country Perspective’s 2014 Album of the Year, on the Late Show with David Letterman last night. They knocked it out of the park of course. Based on the reactions I saw on Twitter, there were a lot of other people who felt the same. I hope they picked up a bunch of new fans and I find it hard to fathom how anyone can’t be a fan of this duo after hearing their music. When they found out they were going to play on Letterman again, they were pretty thrilled about it.

If you haven’t heard their Swimmin’ Time album, I highly recommend you go check it out. Also what did you think of their performance here?

Country Perspective’s Best Country Group of 2014 Nominees

Country Perspective has many year-end awards: Best Album, Worst Album, Best Male Artist, Best Female Artist, Best Song, Worst Song and this award Best Group. Each are challenging in their own right, but this award is arguably the toughest to determine. Four of the five nominees albums are up for Country Perspective’s Best Country Album of the Year. That’s insane! These groups are all fantastic regardless of what group ultimately wins and you should check out all of their music.

Derek and myself will ultimately determine who wins, but you the readers will also have a big say on who wins too. Your feedback and opinions in the comments below can and probably will sway who wins. So be sure to sound off on who you think deserves to win. Let’s take a look at the nominees for Country Perspective’s Best Country Group of 2014.

First Aid Kit – These Swedish sisters sing music that is wise beyond their years. Johanna and Klara Söderberg thrill with their haunting album Stay Gold. The album also makes you laugh, cry and reflect. It’s an emotional roller coaster that flows perfectly together. They also did a fantastic job covering Paul Simon’s “America.” Speaking of America, more people in this country need to hear this duo. First Aid Kit is also up for Country Perspective’s Best Country Album of 2014 and Best Country Song of 2014 (“Cedar Lane”).

 

Old Crow Medicine Show – If there’s one group you can consistently rely on to produce great music, this is the group. Old Crow Medicine Show hasn’t missed a beat since Willie Watson left the group to pursue a solo career and their album was great enough to be nominated for Country Perspective’s Best Country Album of 2014. Their emotional song “Dearly Departed Friend” was also nominated for Country Perspective’s Best Country Song of 2014. You know what else is great about this group? You can tell how much they enjoy making music.

 

Shovels & Rope – I’ll be honest with you: I never heard of this duo before this year. I heard a lot of praise for their new album Swimmin’ Time from people I respect in country music, so I gave it a listen. I’m sorry I wasn’t aware of this dynamic duo sooner. Husband and wife Michael Trent and Carry Ann Hearst combine for some of the best harmonies I’ve ever heard. Their chemistry and attention to detail make for one of the best albums of the year. They’re also up for Country Perspective’s Best Country Song of 2014 with “Coping Mechanism.”

 

The Secret Sisters – They quietly released one of the best country albums of 2014 with their album Put Your Needle Down. Really I was surprised by how little talk there was of this great album. Under the guidance of T Bone Burnett the duo delivered a deeply harmonic album. Derek did a great job reviewing this album and this snippet at the end of it I think sums up this group and their 2014 best:

This album is a musical time machine, taking it right into the center of each era of great music and The Secret Sisters flawlessly execute every song, delivering a quality that could stand up with each genre’s best. This is no sophomore slump. Laura and Lydia prove their songwriting prowess and establish themselves a strong base on which to build a strong, promising musical future.

 

Zac Brown Band – The best group in mainstream country music didn’t even release a new album this year and yet they did enough to be nominated for group of the year. What qualified them in our minds to be nominated for this award? Well first they released a great EP in The Grohl Sessions Vol. 1, which produced the great single “All Alright.” They also collaborated with several artists (Allman Brothers, Elton John, Foo Fighters, Doobie Brothers) to make great music and admirably cover classic hits. Another thing that made me respect this group even more was Brown picking Sturgill Simpson to open for him on select tour dates. This group simply respects country music and it shows through their music and actions.

 

Who should win Country Perspective’s Best Group of 2014 award? Let us know in the comments below.

Country Perspective’s 2014 Album of the Year Nominees

Over the course of 2014 we have seen all kinds of great country music. We’ve had debut albums that have surprised everyone and comeback albums that reminded everyone they still got it. This was not only the case across the entire country music world, but in Country Perspective’s nominees for 2014 Album of the Year. The amount of diversity in terms of sound, artist, nationalities, and concepts gives everyone something they can like. Some might say 2014 was a “down” year for country music compared to 2013, but I saw plenty of great music to refute this notion. And today I will highlight what we at Country Perspective to believe the best of the best.

Derek and myself will both ultimately decide which album will win Country Perspective’s top award. But we’re not the only ones deciding. We encourage feedback from you the readers! Your comments and suggestions will most certainly influence who wins not only this award, but all the year-end awards here at Country Perspective.

One more thing: In order for an album to be eligible for Album of the Year, it must have received a perfect 10/10 rating in its review. No other albums are considered. Only the best of the best get a shot. I just wanted to point this out so everyone knows why a certain album did not get nominated. So without further ado: the nominees! (listed in alphabetical order)

First Aid Kit – Stay Gold

Swedish sisters Johanna and Anna Söderberg delivered one of the most underrated albums of 2014. Their blending of folk, country and pop elements made for a pretty dynamic album. They not only show off their stunning harmonies, but their ability to put the right amount of emotion behind each lyric. To me Stay Gold was the coming out party for this duo and I only hope more people in America take notice of their talent.

Every once in a while when listening to music, you’ll get blindsided from something out of left field. This is music that is so good or bad that it just takes your breath away when it hits your ears. Today’s album is so damn good I couldn’t help but smile the entire time I listened to it. There is no use in beating around the bush. First Aid Kit’s new album Stay Gold is absolutely phenomenal. The Swedish sister duo of Johanna and Klara Söderberg are like a fresh breath of air when hearing them harmonize together. It’s so pure and raw. Throw in spot-on instrumentation and you got one hell of an album. Click here for the full review.

Karen Jonas – Oklahoma Lottery

Once again in 2014 female country artists put out better music than male country artists. One of the many great female artists to emerge in 2014 is Virginia country artist Karen Jonas. Her debut album Oklahoma Lottery is one of the best debut albums I have ever heard from an artist. Her songwriting is wise beyond her years. Her raw and honest style on the album is refreshing and let’s the music do the talking.

When it comes to Oklahoma Lottery though, I just can’t find anything wrong. I mean if you’re really nitpicking you could say it’s too raw at times, but I think the rawness adds another layer to the album. Really it enhances it and makes the more emotional songs stand out. I find it very hard for anyone who likes traditional country music to not like this album. Karen Jonas is truly breaking out with this album and I am very eager to hear her next album. You can’t do much better for a debut album. Expect to see Jonas’ name a lot in Country Perspective’s year-end awards list of nominees. Oklahoma Lottery comes with my highest recommendation. Click here for the full review.

Lucette – Black Is The Color

Everything artist Dave Cobb touches turns to gold. The young Canadian country artist tapping Cobb to be her producer on her first album was a great choice. Ditching the Nashville scene and going independent to make the music she wants to make was an even better choice. If you like dark and gothic country music, this is for you.

You don’t come across too many artists that have fantastic debut album. Many are still finding themselves and the kind of music they want to make, but Lucette seems to already know what she wants. With her talent and vision the sky is the limit in terms of the success she can have in her career. This is an artist that every true country fan needs to keep an eye on and her album Black Is The Color is something everyone should listen to. It’s right on par with Sturgill Simpson’s Metamodern Sounds in Country Music and will definitely have an excellent chance of being Country Perspective’s Best Country Album of 2014. Click here for the full review.

Old Crow Medicine Show – Remedy

When Willie Watson left the group, many people said this band wasn’t the same and Remedy was one of their worst albums ever. To them I say bullshit. Even people who gave this album a good chance sort of dismissed this as a typical O.C.M.S album. You should never dismiss great music like this. While there are several songs showing off the fun side of the band, it’s their deeper and more somber songs that impress me like “The Warden” and “Dearly Departed Friend.”

Remedy has everything you want in an album. There’s a song everyone can listen to and connect with. Or just listen to and have a good time. Without a doubt, this is one of the top candidates for Country Perspective’s Album of the Year. Click here for the full review.

Shovels & Rope – Swimmin’ Time

Swimmin’ Time is one of the frontrunners to win Album of the Year and for good reason. This is damn fine music. Along with Lucette’s album I mentioned above, this is the other darkest country album in 2014. Just listen to “Ohio” and “Evil.” You’ll get the point. If you’re looking for a new duo to fill the void of the Civil Wars, I can’t think of a better choice than Shovels & Rope.

My only regret with Shovels & Rope is that I didn’t listen to their music sooner. This is a pair of musicians that simply understand what country music is all about. It’s not about partying and drinking beers on a tailgates nor driving on a dirt road. It’s about telling a story that the everyday person can relate to and feel as they listen. This is a group that has so many influences from other genres that you honesty can’t even place a label on them. Click here for the full review.

Sturgill Simpson – Metamodern Sounds in Country Music

You may have heard about this guy and his new album. He’s only been making the rounds on late night talk show circuits and touring with the Zac Brown Band. If you had to pick one artist that has been the critical darling of country music critics, you would have to pick Sturgill Simpson. His 2013 debut album High Top Mountain was great. His follow up album Metamodern Sounds in Country Music is even better.

I never even heard of Sturgill Simpson at this time last year and now he’s up there on the charts with the likes of Luke Bryan and Florida Georgia Line. I guess people still love traditional country music after all. This album has set the bar for all country albums in 2014. If you love traditional country music or just great music in general, go buy this album right now. Click here for the full review.

Sunny Sweeney – Provoked

Sweeney absolutely nails it with Provoked. The songwriting is well done and the instrumentation is flawless. She went back to her Red Dirt Texas roots, but also gave it a modern flavor. It’s traditional country music for sure. Many country artists after losing major record deals or mainstream relevance try too hard to win their old appeal back from Music Row or the mainstream country audience instead of just being themselves and trying to produce the best country music possible. Whoever decided to cut Sweeney loose from her major label deal is looking like a real idiot after hearing this album from Sweeney. Women are struggling to make it onto country music radio and Sweeney is a prime candidate to fill this gaping void. Sunny Sweeney’s Provoked is one of the best country albums of 2014 and is a front-runner for Country Perspective’s Album of the Year. If you haven’t listened to this album yet and you love real country music, go check this out now. Click here for the full review.

Tami Neilson – Dynamite!

Tami Neilson Album Cover

The New Zealand country artist takes listeners on a trip back to the old days of country music. It’s certainly an older style, but Neilson makes it feel fresh and new. She may just have the best vocals among female artists in country music. You may think this is a little extreme, but think about it. Tell me I’m wrong. You can’t.

I’m glad I was able to review Tami Neilson’s Dynamite! before the posting of nominees for year-end awards here at Country Perspective because she will certainly be considered in a number of categories. It would have been criminal not to include her among the best of country music in 2014. This album is simply phenomenal and I will reiterate this again: go buy and listen to this album. Click here for the full review.

The Secret Sisters – Put Your Needle Down

While Sweden is home to the sister duo of First Aid Kit, America boasts it’s own dynamic country sister duo in Laura and Lydia Rogers of The Secret Sisters. As Derek said in his review of the album:

Fitting The Secret Sisters into one genre of music is an impossible task. Their musical influences are vast, coming from an array of artists and decades. You may be quick to box them in as traditional country; after all, many of the songs on their debut record four years ago are covers of country greats like George Jones, Hank Williams, Bill Monroe and Buck Owens. However, their sophomore effort, Put Your Needle Down, shatters that little glass box and shows the sisters, Laura and Lydia Rogers, playing rock music, a little blues, Motown, 1950s style ballads alongside their country roots. The sisters also focused their efforts for this album on their original material, co-writing 9 of the 12 tracks, with writers such as Dan Wilson, Gordie Sampson, Brandi Carlile and they finished an incomplete song from Bob Dylan. Under producer T Bone Burnett, The Secret Sisters deliver a brilliant album to their fans. Click here for the full review.

Be sure to sound off in the comments below! What album should win Country Perspective’s 2014 Album of the Year?

Album Review – Shovels & Rope’s Swimmin’ Time

When the Civil Wars announced they were officially splitting, there was now a void for a powerful duo in country music. No, Florida Georgia has never been nor will be a powerful duo anywhere close to the Civil Wars. Well that void was temporary because the duo that is more than capable of taking their spot has officially emerged: Shovels & Rope. One thing that make Shovels & Rope more cohesive and less likely to split is they are a husband and wife duo. Michael Trent and Cary Ann Hearst show no signs of their marriage nor band breaking apart anytime soon. They’re starting to become more and more popular too, as last week they appeared on Conan and continue to receive praise from critics abroad. I’m about to praise them also because their new album Swimmin’ Time is one hell of a record.

The Best Songs on the Album

The first thing I look at when analyzing duo is how well they harmonize. And Shovels & Rope certainly get an A+ in this department. Their harmonies are absolutely flawless throughout the entire album. The best example of their harmonies shining is on “After The Storm.” Hearst’s vocals are especially strong on this song as she shows great emotion in the exact spots there should be emotion. The inclusion of the harmonica in this song is also a nice touch. But their harmonies are showcased front and center in the last-minute or so in the song when there is no instruments playing and it’s just the two harmonizing together. It hits you right in the gut.

Shovels & Rope show their silly side in “Fish Assassin.” When preparing to listen to a song with a title like this you really don’t know what to expect. What you get with it is a short, but fast and upbeat song. The song is actually about fishing and then frying said fish up. Pretty funny stuff. It’s also a song you can’t help, but get up and dance to as you listen. The tambourine and drum combination make for an infectious beat that’s easy to get stuck in your head. The song is only one minute and twenty-three seconds long, but this duo knows how to pack a punch in a small song. Of course then they follow this song up with a song that is even better in “Coping Mechanism.” This song has the total package. The vocals and instrumentation are absolutely stellar. This is a throwback country song with 50s doo-wop  that makes you want to bob your head back and forth. I guess that would make it Americana? Whatever you want to label it, this song is awesome. The harmonies are so great on this song that you can’t help but smile as you listen to it. It’s hard to properly describe how good this song is and it’s best just to listen to it multiple times.

It’s hard enough to have one song on an album that has the whole package, but Shovels & Rope have second song on the album that shines in all facets too. “Swimmin’ Time” is a song about dealing with incoming consequences and is basically a warning song to a person about to receive payback. There’s also an underlying sinister attitude to the song that really gives it a bite (really there’s underlying sinister attitude on a lot of song on this album). The harmonies and instrumentation are excellent of course. “Stono River Blues” is a bluesy rock influenced song with balls. Just before the two-minute mark there is a guitar solo that is face melting. Just a fantastic arrangement of instruments on this song. Shovels & Rope show off their storytelling chops in “Mary Ann & One Eyed Dan.” It’s a song that tells the story about two people falling in love with each other. When Mary and Dan “talk” in the song, Trent voices Dan and Hearst voices Mary, making for a cool dynamic between the two throughout the song. It’s a real upbeat, love song that incorporates the horn instruments quite well.

The Worst Songs on the Album

Nope.

The Rest of the Album

“The Devil Is All Around” is a song about making mistakes in life and finding ways to fix them. I thought it was a solid way to kick off the album, although it took me a few listens to figure out exactly what the song is about. They follow this up with the heartbreak song, “Bridge On Fire.” The lyrics do a great job of painting a picture in the listener’s head of how the breakup transpired. The mood and pacing of the song is spot on. The dark side of Shovels & Rope is shown in “Evil.” There’s a constant presence of the steel guitar in the background that really gives it a dark vibe and sets the tone perfectly. The song is what the title says it is, it’s about evil and sinister topics such as child abuse and dead dogs on the side of the road being mentioned. That’s how evil this song gets. They get just as dark in the song “Ohio.” The horns and electric guitar makes for a real interesting combination. I’m really not sure what the song is about, but I know I like it. It’s more of an instrumental song. There’s a reference to a rich man in Dallas making money off suckers in Ohio towards the end of the song that gives it a sinister mysteriousness mood to the song.

Great harmonic play is present again in “Pinned,” a song about learning lessons from others. The lighter side of Shovels & Rope can be found in “Save The World.” It’s a folksy song about two people falling in love that feels genuine and heartfelt coming from a husband and wife duo. They go back to the dark side in the final track, “Thresher.” This song is about the mysterious sinking of a boat tragically killing people. It has a real dark vibe. The song just feels so haunted that you can hardly tell what’s happening. You kind of get lost in the music on the first listen. Upon second listen you’ll be able to appreciate the fantastic songwriting. I think it’s a good song to cap off the album.

Overall Thoughts

My only regret with Shovels & Rope is that I didn’t listen to their music sooner. This is a pair of musicians that simply understand what country music is all about. It’s not about partying and drinking beers on a tailgates nor driving on a dirt road. It’s about telling a story that the everyday person can relate to and feel as they listen. This is a group that has so many influences from other genres that you honesty can’t even place a label on them. The closest label I could put on them is alt-country. The only other group I’ve listened to in recent years that I could say is similar in the fact you can’t place a concise label on them is The Mavericks. When you’re compared to The Mavericks you know you’re pretty damn great. I’m very picky about giving an album a 10 because I feel an album and band truly need to earn it with their music. I just gave a 10 last week to Lucette’s new album and didn’t expect to consider giving a 10 out again so soon. But there’s no other choice with an excellent album like this one. Go buy Swimmin’ Time. You won’t regret it. This is a Country Perspective Album of the Year candidate without a doubt.

Grade: 10/10

To preview and purchase Swimmin’ Time, click here.