Exclaim!'s Best of 2014: Top 10 Country, Folk & Blues Albums

7. Shovels & Rope
Swimmin' Time
(Dine Alone)

From their Charleston home on John's Island off the coast of South Carolina, Michael Trent and Cary Ann Hearst are understandably concerned with the almost submergible state of the Eastern seaboard's water levels on this, their third record. Swimmin' Time, along with being socially driven, is guided by pure Southern Americana charm and chemistry. The married duo that form Shovels & Rope successfully followed their breakout record, O' Be Joyful, with an even more inspiring release. Despite the serious political undercurrent of the album, Swimmin' Time is rousing and sing-able, carrying the same positive characteristics as its predecessor; both have bombastic hits as the opening song ("Devil is All Around"), both are rife with compelling storytelling ("Mary Ann & One Eyed Dan," "Thresher" and "Evil") and both feature the couple's flawless a cappella harmonies ("After The Storm").

What distinguishes Shovels & Rope's latest record from previous efforts is the new depth and expansion of their vision beyond the sweet and folksy to the downright sinister ambiguities of good and evil. With Swimmin' Time, Shovels & Rope have solidified themselves as one of the most consistent acts in roots music today. (Mackenzie Herd)