Album review: AMANDA SHIRES – To The Sunset

AMANDA SHIRES - To The Sunset

Silver Knife/ Thirty Tigers [Release date 03.08.18]

I was impressed when Amanda Shires first featured on the GRTR! radar back in 2012 with her excellent Carrying Lightning album.  In particular, her ‘Dolly Parton’ twang and vibrato, her haunting fiddle playing, and her ability to write a decent alt country / Americana tune.

For some reason, her follow up – My Piece Of Land (2016) – passed us by, although it led to headline tours and Shires receiving the Americana Music Association’s Emerging Artist of The Year Award.

To The Sunset reprises that album’s association with Grammy award-winning producer Dave Cobb (who also plays bass) at Nashville’s historic RCA Studio A, and features ‘special guests’ that include husband Jason Isbell (guitar, and in whose 400 Unit band Shire also plays), Peter Levin (keys), and Jerry Pentecost (drums).

Representing a shift in both sound and attitude to previous releases, Shires has added atmospheric effects pedals to her fiddle playing for the first time, as exemplified on the broodingly ethereal opener ‘Parking Lot Pirouette’.

‘Swimme’r – the song that bookended Carrying Lightning – makes a surprising reappearance, ‘Leave It Alone’ has a U2 / Edge guitar motif and a young Stevie Nicks edge to the vocals, and ‘Eve’s Daughter’ and ‘Take On The Dark’ rock out in a manner becoming increasingly rare for Sheryl Crow.

‘Breakout The Champagne’ is a naturally infectious toe tapper, the Hammond B3-fuelled ‘White Feather’ is poignantly atmospheric, and ‘Wasn’t I Paying Attention’ epitomises the way in which Shires is blurring the boundaries as Americana fast becomes the new rock ‘n’ roll.  ***1/2

Review by Pete Whalley


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