Swimmin’ Time

The cover image on Swimmin’ Time, a life preserver, serves as a perfect metaphor for the songs within — and the husband-and-wife duo behind them. Because they willingly go wherever a song takes them, Cary Ann Hearst and Michael Trent frequently enter deep musical territory full of seemingly rapid currents and risky undertows. But they always manage to rescue one other — while thrilling listeners with their daredevil bravery. Their mix of raw energy and restrained finesse as they entwine their voices into incredibly tight high and low harmonies while playing a busker’s orchestra of instruments, combined with their flair for vivid storytelling, creates an effect so dramatic, it almost leaves you drained. “After the Storm” gathers strength with every note, every pause — and just when it seems as if it couldn’t gain any more momentum, they break into an a cappella finish. Jesus, it’s powerful — even more so because they’re singing about survival and hope amid the ruins. And you can hear the fun they have with tracks such as “Coping Mechanism,” on which they conjure Fats Domino, and “Mary Ann & One-Eyed Dan,” a sweet melody on which Hearst again evokes Debbie Reynolds (as she did in O’ Be Joyful’s “Carnival”). Just like the couple who made it, this album oozes charm. If you don’t love it immediately, listen again. Like a sometimes boisterous Southern uncle, it could take a minute to grab you. But it will. — LYNNE MARGOLIS