Southern Reunion: Mountain people, salt water people and swamp people, together for one show

As Shovels & Rope’s front woman Cary Ann Hearst pointed out, the mountains of Western North Carolina, the swamps of New Orleans and the warm oceanside of Charleston, S.C. came together at the March 7 concert at The Orange Peel. Over 1,000 people crowded into the venue for a sold out show with the South Carolina-based duo and New Orleans’s Hurray for the Riff Raff.

With just one official album, O’ Be Joyful, released in 2012, Shovels & Rope has quickly gained popularity. Michael Trent and Hearst, who are married, have lived in various parts of the South and this Southern influence is clear in their music. With Hearst’s strong vocals and guitar playing and Trent multitasking on the harmonica, guitar and bass drum all at once, Shovels & Rope makes a dynamic duo. Their songs have high highs and low lows, keeping the crowd’s attention.

Playing with Shovels & Rope was Hurray for the Riff Raff, fronted by songbird Alynda Lee Segarra. This New Orleans band has been around since 2008 and has released six full-length albums, including Small Town Heroesm, which dropped last month.

It was a night of ballads at The Orange Peel, with songs like “Swing Low” by Shovels & Rope: “March him up the mountain/ rifle in his back/ to the gallows yonder just beyond the track/ to pay for what could not be taken back.”

But Hurray for the Riff Raff put its own spin on the typical folk ballad. “It’s mostly the woman who seems to die in murder ballads,” said Segarra, before playing “The Body Electric” off of the band’s new album. On it, Segarra sings in her smoky, seasoned voice: “He shot her down, he put her body in the river. He covered her up but I went to get her and I said, ‘My girl, what happened to you now?’ I said ‘My girl, we gotta stop it somehow.’ Oh, and tell me what’s a man with a rifle in his hand gonna do for a world that’s so sick and sad?”

About Micah Wilkins
Micah Wilkins began her time at Mountain Xpress as an intern while a student at Warren Wilson College, where she studied history and creative writing. After graduating in December, 2013, she continued writing for the Xpress as a freelancer.

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