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  • Writer's pictureBridget Buckley

"Mary Ann and One Eye Dan": How Shovels and Rope Ended My Week Long Spousal Fued

The musical collaboration of husband and wife team Cary Ann Hearst and Michael Trent, otherwise known as Shovels and Rope, is about as good as it gets. No fancy recording studio, no cumbersome over dubs, just the pure sound of two musicians undeniably born to play together.

I saw them play The Fillmore in San Francisco in November 2014 (yes I ate an apple) and their energy and commitment to the music was mind blowing. Cary Ann and Michael made so much music on stage it was hypnotic (even standing like sardines next to uber San Francisco hipsters). As they switched back and forth between drum kit, guitar and keyboards, I just kept thinking there must have been another person on stage with them, or at the very least, an extra set of arms. Both relaxed and intentional, it was fun seeing them whisper to each other between songs followed by Cary Ann’s announcement, “We are calling an audible and changing the set.” You have to love the southern football reference and the confidence to switch the obvious plan because they were working off the crowd’s energy and having fun.

Had I watched their documentary, The Ballad of Shovels and Rope, before the concert, I would have understood their genuine love for one another and the music they create. The documentary follows the making and recording of their acclaimed album O’ Be Joyful and will always have a special place in my heart because it ended a week long fight with my husband. How can a music documentary end a spousal feud? Watching a husband and wife TEAM working together to honor their craft was inspiring. The movie begins with Cary Ann waitressing and ends with the team winning multiple Americana Awards and playing at The Ryman Theater. It is commitment at its best and worst and my husband and I were seriously impressed with their connection to the marriage, the music and the dog.

This week, Shovels and Rope released a new video for the song “Mary Ann and One Eyed Dan.” A short story of sorts chronicling the love of the two characters set to stuffed animals and stop motion photography. And yes, it is as creative and cool as it sounds. A few weeks ago they announced their pregnancy (going to be the cutest and coolest kid ever) so maybe the use of stuffed animals made the video even more poignant for me, but the song could hold it’s own even without the sweet animal creations. There is a pureness in their lyrics that make even a quirky song about a one eyed man seem like a Shakespearean love sonnet.

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