The folk-rock duo (and real-life couple) break down their star-packed album
Shovels & Rope
Credit: Molly Hayes

Shovels & Rope is back with Busted Jukebox Volume 2.

Two years after the first iteration — which featured team-ups with Shakey Graves, Lucius, Preservation Jazz Hall Band, and more covering famed cuts from the likes of Elvis Costello, Guns N’ Roses, and Nine Inch Nails — the folk-rock duo (and real-life couple) are ready to share version two.

EW is thrilled to premiere the collection in full a week before its release on Friday, Dec. 7. Below, Cary Ann Hearst and Michael Trent divulge what — and who! — went into the making of each cut.

“Cleanup Hitter” feat. Brandi Carlile

“We met Brandi in 2013 on the Cayamo Cruise, a music cruise where they fill the boat with dozens of bands and hundreds of fans and send us all out to sea with an open bar. (What could go wrong!?) After one of our sets, Brandi walked up and asked if we wanted to join her for a couple of songs during her show later on. Fortunately, she is so real, down-to-earth, and genuine that however we reacted in that moment left her unfazed. [When] we joined her to rehearse, we became fast friends. ‘Clean Up Hitter’ was written by Bill Carson and us, but mostly Bill. His original recording is accordion-driven and a little more folksy. Here, we thought it’d be fun to let Brandi sing it to space with her powerful and pleading delivery.”

“Joey” feat. Nicole Atkins

“We wanted to make a version of this song that sounded like a spooky, garage-y Diana Ross and the Supremes — with us playing the role of the Supremes. The lyrics are so mysterious, vivid, and wonderful that we thought it’d be cool to toy with the visualization of them by making it sound as much like how we saw them playing out in our minds as possible. We chose to stagger our voices coming in and out of the verses so it could broaden the story a little and introduce different characters at different times and also make you wonder, ‘WTF is going on here?’… We didn’t know Nicole all that well when we approached her about this, but we had been admiring her from afar for quite a while. She was so wonderful and responsive and turned the track around in no time. Her voice does all the things you want it to and it was such a great personality to lead this one.”

“Do You Love Me Now” feat. Rhett Miller

“We didn’t even know the Breeders were getting back together when we chose this one! Since the original was so timeless, we had to get a little ‘far out’ to reinterpret it with any creative justice. This was the first song we tried for this record, having no idea what it would be or who should guest on it. We were at our parents’ house and didn’t have any drums so we started toying with some drum loops and acoustic guitars. What came out was some sort of twisted, industrial groove with some dreamy surf highlights. [Rhett Miller] is such a wonderful writer and performer; his voice is so unmistakable, in all the greatest ways. We were beside ourselves when he agreed to take part in the project and, in our humble opinion, the end result is as cool as it sounds on paper.”

“Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain” feat. John Moreland

“We had the pleasure of touring with John Moreland this past year and love where he’s coming from as an artist and as a person. But we met when we did a Newport Folk Festival aftershow a little while back. John came up and sang this one with us on stage. It was beautiful, spontaneous, and a definite highlight in our band memory book. The song is such a classic, so simple and poignant. We tried to make this recording kind of big and dramatic, just because we’d never heard a version of it like that before. John’s delivery is perfect.”

“Untitled 1” feat. Matthew Logan Vasquez

“A lot of people might not know the original version of this song but it is a beautiful, floating, anthemic soundscape by Sigur Rós. The credit for this one belongs to Matthew Logan Vasquez. When we first approached him about being involved in BJV2, he sent over a recording of this song and it sounded amazing. We’d perform it with him on tour together and it sort of naturally moved toward the direction of what you hear on this recording now. It’s one of our favorite tracks on this album. Matt is such an inspiring singer and performer. He’s crazy in all the best ways, and totally thoughtful. A primal genius, he’s like if the Beatles and Motörhead had a baby.”

“The Air That I Breathe” feat. Indianola

“Owen Beverly, the man behind Indianola, has been a dear friend of ours for years. He’s one of the finest singers and writers out there today and we’re excited to turn people onto him who might not know him yet. We wanted to do a creaky but lush version of this song, so we experimented with pairing some instruments that don’t usually go together and layering up a lot of harmonies. The melody is so beautiful — it’s one of those that can make you cry just because of the way the notes are laid out — but when you add the lyrics, and when Owen sings it, forget about it.”

“I’m Your Man” feat. John Fullbright

“Leonard Cohen was a master songwriter and a wonderful poet, definitely a hero of ours — or anti-hero, however you see it. We put this song on a Valentine’s Day mix a couple of years back and ever since have wanted to recreate it with current master songwriter and friend John Fullbright. John and his girlfriend came out and stayed with us for a couple of nights over the Fourth of July weekend, and we had a great time working with him. We wanted to tap into his raunchy side, and if you check out the bridge, you’ll hear him digging it out. Fantastic!”

“Death Or Glory” feat. Hayes Carll

“Hayes Carll was the first guy to take us out on the road when we had absolutely nothing going on. He taught us a lot about what’s important and what’s not in this business and on the road. He’s one of our favorite songwriters and human beings and we owe so much of what we’ve been able to build over these last six years or so to his kindness and generosity. We wanted to do a slinky, swung version of this song where we traded off verses and just had some fun with it; loose and raucous. It still sounds like punk rock, but with cowboy boots.”

“Epic” feat. Lera Lynn

“We both had visceral responses to the original [version] when we were kids. It was a new weird sound; it was rap-inflected heavy-rock with orchestral waves and flourishes; a hot mess of hair, sweat, sugar, and just icky sexiness that made us squirm and headbang in equal portions. We wanted to change the feel to sway and strut and invite a more of a barrelhouse feel to the song. [We have] no idea how people will respond to this, but we love it. Lera totally nailed it. She dialed up a delivery that makes you physically grip the arm of your chair harder than normal, and when the song is over you are like, ‘Why has my whole body tensed up?'”

“You Never Can Tell”

“Chuck Berry felt like a member our family. His rock and roll was omnipresent in both our lives, and his passing hit us hard. We always saw a little of ourselves in the young couple in the song: setting up house on a shoestring, loving rock and roll, and making it happen the best way we know how. We put a modern, noisy, sped-up vibe on it with tones and timbers borrowed from Hasil Adkins and the Strokes to create this duet to cap the record off.”

Busted Jukebox Volume 2 will release on Friday, Dec. 8. It is streaming in full above. Pre-order the set here on CD and here for a digital copy.