Style: Harmony-laden, country-inspired folk; compare to Carter Family, Conor Oberst, The Civil Wars
Top tracks: "Birmingham," "Kemba," "This Means War"
Like most rootsy songwriters of the south, Charleston, S.C., duo Shovels & Rope infuse their lyrics with Christian touchstones. "Rock of ages cleave for me," goes leadoff track "Birmingham," an autobiographical, foot-stomping song of how Cary Ann Hearst and Michael Trent came to be a band. The title O' Be Joyful says it well: This raucous record bursts with energy. It's less about faith in God and more about faith in each other ("Hold very close what's given you," Trent instructs), but for those who want more grits than honey in a Southern-fried guy-girl duo, Shovels & Rope's self-described "sloppy tonk" is your meal ticket.1