Tonight husband and wife country duo Shovels And Rope play McGonigel's Mucky Duck, a venue that as of late has become their main Houston stomping grounds when they aren't opening for their friend Hayes Carll in bigger venues.
The pair -- Cary Ann Hearst and Michael Trent -- just released their latest, O' Be Joyful, on Dualtone. The record is even getting attention from MTV's Hive, and it's no surprise. S&R's sound fits right into the folkcentric landscape ("throw suspenders on everything in sight") that is holding sway right now, but let it be known that Hearst and Trent were here first, and that they have their own misgivings about the state of the industry.
"The old record industry may be dead or is suffering a rattling epic slow painful death. Maybe it is already in rigor mortis but it's propped up Weekend at Bernie's style," says Hearst in an email from the road. She uses sometime touring mate Carll as a prime example for how one can be successful in such a turbulent business.
"He's successful, but he's still away from his family, still hauling ass from town to town, and what did he say in "Bad Liver and a Broken Heart"? 'In this life no one retires'," Hearst says.
"What was planted in the composting carcass of the old bidness is shaping up to be a fecund and verdant environment for music to grow and spread the way it did half a century ago. Touring and doing good business with folks that can help you along as you grunt it out through swells of success or ebbing popularity," she says.
"If a good band is willing to work at it and hang on until it works out, there's a way better chance now to expect to be a able to carve out a living singing for your supper then when things were more bloated."
Hearst and Trent wrote most of the new album on the road, between peddling their respective solo records and their first album. The songs were written, recorded, and even mixed by the time they gave it to Dualtone.
"Some of the songs were written in states of hysterical dementia, just ask any touring musician about Tour Madness. It's a squirelly feeling you get from sitting still while hauling ass down the highway for extended periods of time," says Hearst.
These times can either can be either stunningly fruitless or appallingly inspirational for a band. In the future, the pair will remember to isolate the writing process from success and attention, so it's not so informed by that madness.
"What we choose to write or sing should be no more effected by what others expect or want from us than the wanting of shit to float up stream," says Hearst.
S&R are also one of the few married touring duos roaming the country's roads these days too. Does basic marital strife ever affect band and industry stress?
"The only fights we have are band fights," Hearst adds. "Being married is easy," .
Hearst and Trent have wildly varied influences too. She name-checks Elvis Presley, Marty Robbins' gunfighter ballads, and even the glam-metal band Poison, owning up to dressing up like their guitarist C.C. Deville as a kid. It was her father and stepfather who helped form her musically, though.
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"My real dad gave me an amazing record collection which contained everything you really need to know," she says. "Dylan, John Prine, ZZ Top, the Allman Brothers, and even John Lee Hooker. My stepdad put a guitar in my hand and showed me how to play, write and gig myself around."
7:30 p.m. tonight at McGonigel's Mucky Duck, 2425 Norfolk.