The last song on Shovels & Rope's excellent 2016 LP Little Seeds is "The Ride," an elegiac ballad written in memory of Eric Brantley, a beloved bartender and guitarist in the Charleston music community who was shot and killed shortly after a shift at the Sparrow in Park Circle. Borrowing the cadence of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" with a heavy, gorgeous melody, it's a song both deep in sorrow and in search of joy, a fitting tribute to the friend they lost and a cry against the senselessness of his loss.
On Friday, the Shrimp Records collective will honor Brantley yet again by collaborating for a show to benefit Gun Sense SC, a grassroots advocacy group for common sense gun laws that sprung up in the wake of the Emanuel AME tragedy. Shrimp Records is a loose-net group of Charleston musicians out of which Shovels & Rope emerged. It also includes folks like Bill Carson, Jack Burg (Punks&Snakes), Joel T. Hamilton (Mechanical River), and Michael Flynn (Slow Runner) — all of whom will be playing in some capacity at the show.
"I had heard about Gun Sense, and then I went to a meeting this fall and was just really impressed by them," says Carson of how the benefit show came about. "For an issue that's as overwhelming as gun violence, where it's easy to feel like you don't know what to do or where to start, I was really impressed by the clarity of their vision. They aren't trying to solve the entire problem of gun violence but to make specific changes that could make a difference."
He's referring to Gun Sense's commitment to gun control legislation that's broadly supported among many South Carolinians — for instance, closing the gun show and online purchase loopholes to ensure thorough and complete background checks of all gun purchases.
"We stand with the 80 to 89 percent of South Carolinians who — in three statewide surveys conducted in the last 16 months — support this legislation, along with 83 percent of gun owners," asserts Meghan Trezies, founder of the group. She speaks of starting the group in the weeks after the killings at Emanuel AME as her community mourned, and how the recent trial of the murderer of those nine parishioners has only strengthened their commitment and resolve.
"As South Carolinians, we owe it to each other to advocate for laws that both preserve our traditions and prevent future tragedies," she says.
With Brantley in mind, Carson immediately saw that a Shrimp Records collaboration would be a great way to support the group's efforts.
"So many of us were so overwhelmed by the senselessness of it, just feeling helpless," he says. "So where's a good place to put that energy, where it could help? We've done so many shows like this at the Pour House, it just felt like such an easy thing to plug in and do and get some people there, make some money for that effort. And to just spread the word, because I think there are a lot of people who would be interested in Gun Sense who just don't know about it yet."
For all of the importance and earnestness of supporting Gun Sense SC, there's a sense of casual joy at these Shrimp Records collective shows. Because of Shovels & Rope's busy touring schedule and the natural drift and shift of any local music community, Shrimp Records, as a collective, isn't as active these days but Carson says the shows still conjure up the spirt of a group that, in the past, played in each other's bands around town every week.
"The frequency of that has changed, and it's more evolved into a special event, like this, and it's more like a family reunion," he admits. "We'll probably play a Punks&Snakes set, a Joel [Mechanical River] set, a few things all together. It's probably going to be kind of loose, no surprises."