While local waters opened to commercial shrimpers last week, another kind of "shrimp" season dawned: The mutually supportive local collective Shrimp Records revealed big summer plans and two new albums.
Songwriters Cary Ann Hearst and Michael Trent showed up in the City Paper music room last week with an update from their end of things. Both are among the half-dozen partners who run Shrimp Records. Each arrived with a copy of their new solo album.
Hearst's five-song Are You Ready to Die featured a ferocious image of a roaring lion on the cover. Trent's 11-song The Winner showed his grinning face against a cloudless sky.
Recently married, Hearst and Trent have been musical partners for years, performing and recording as a duo under the band name Shovels & Rope. Their 2008 self-titled album was a dynamic, reverb-drenched party with impressive arrangements and terrific harmonies.
Their collaboration reflects the nurturing interaction between the entire Shrimp family, which includes Owen Beverly, Joel Hamilton, Sadler Vaden, and Bill Carson.
"There's a collective effort going on all the time," Hearst says. "We all had different resources that we could tap. And Michael has a certain kind of taste in the studio, which is really palatable to me and others."
Trent agrees that things are clicking well between everyone. "The thing has become more organized," he says. "Shrimp's first compilation [last year's Volume 1] had a track from each of us, plus a few tracks from our own side projects."
Hearst's Are You Ready to Die is a glimmering collection of country-flavored originals recorded in L.A. with engineers Butch Walker and Jake Sinclair. With a clean and rich production quality, the songs bounce with spirit and sassiness. Hearst's singing propels the music, from the hearty accordion-peppered "The Thread" and the Orbison-esque title track to the more chanty/stompy "Hell's Bells" (not an AC/DC cover, by the way).
"Cary Ann's record is slick in the sense that all the musicians really know what they're doing," remarked Trent. "But it's raw, and her voice sounds like I've never heard it on anything before — even on Shovels & Rope."
The Winner — Trent's second full-length solo album — starts off with the piano-driven, slow-boogie title track before moving on to reverby/rockabilly "Tell the Truth," a deceptively simple-sounding rock 'n' roll tune. The folk-rocker "Complicated Type" shows off Trent's more sensitive vocal skills, with little trills here, achy vibratos there, and cleverly bent notes all around. "Kitchen-Hallway" is a shuffle with Dylan-style harmonica and a yelpy chorus and nice harmonies. Things get a little swampier with the banjo and boot-on-the-floor downbeat of "Daily Routine."
"I think The Winner has a lot of boogie-woogie on it," says Hearst. "It has a tender side, too. But Michael's not a blues musician; he's a melody 'n' arrangement guy ... a pop sensibility guy."
Hearst says that the label plans to host a big showcase gig in town every three months, celebrating a new release by one of the roster's artists.
As a duo, Shovels & Rope already have a pile of tunes ready to record.
"Michael is pursuing his career, and I'm doing mine," says Hearst. "But we were thinking about going over to Europe and being Shovels & Rope over there, totally different from who we are here. We want to explore that."
We can't wait for the next update. Visit myspace.com/shrimprecordscharleston for more.