Shovels & Rope - "Birmingham": Top Songs of 2012

Last week, iTunes outdid themselves with the free song of the week by featuring "Birmingham" by Shovels & Rope. The first moments of the preview shed light on a song that needed to be heard in its entirety to grasp each complexity, each nuance of the lyric, and the filtered pain in the two voices which blend together so perfectly.

I haven't heard a song this achingly beautiful in years. It's a velvet lined throwback to an era when you could stumble blindly into a bar and have your world changed by two people on stage with a harmonica and a guitar. Songs that tell the story of an entire existence in less than 4 minutes, with all the sweat, blood, and agony of each day wrapped up into the most succinct of lines. 

Rock of Ages, cleave for me
Let me hide myself in Thee
Buried in the sand
Five hundred miles from Birmingham

It's a song for everyone that yearned to bury all of their soul in rock 'n roll music, when it was hard to believe and you fought anyway to stick to your guns. Eyes that saw more in a minute than most in a lifetime and cried for the lack of the epic in the familiar. Willing to do anything to experience transcendence in a drum beat and a six string. Days on a bus and nights on the stage, looking for that one starry-eyed girl in the audience who surrendered willfully and brutally to the music.

Spent five years going from town to town
Waiting on that little girl to come around
Caught in the arms of New York City
To lose that gal seemed terrible pity

The sad harmonica evokes Bruce Springsteen and "The River". There's echoes of Americana, Neil Young, "American Pie", "Wanted Dead Or Alive", and disillusionment filtered through the lens of blind optimism. It's the kind of song that asks to be played on vinyl or in the dark with a cigarette in hand, exhaling into the night.

Pulled her covered wagon off the BQE
Said this'll be the last you'll ever see of me
Well the cowboy laughed said I know it's not true
Cause there's nothing I could do to get loose from you

It's a love song to rock 'n roll and the way musicians are willing to die a little to live through their music.

Check out this band at or on iTunes. Although the song isn't free anymore, it's more than worth your $1.29.


Yankee Talk said…
This is definitely not my type of song but I could see why you are very into it!