Album Reviews

Music You Don't Know You Like Yet


Carrying Lightning


Fresh off of her contribution to Jason Isbell's latest, "Here We Rest," and of playing Gwyneth Paltrow's fiddle player in the movie "Country Strong," Amanda Shires has been busy making her own music. With a Texas pedigree that includes the Old Country remnants of Bob Will's Playboys and the Alt.Country street cred of the Thrift Store Cowboys, Shires claims Leonard Cohen and Richard Buckner as influences. You can hear all them and even whisps of Seattle and Cleveland in the rich textures of "Carrying Lightning." Her Nashville Cute Girl Looks bely her sophisticated chops as a player and songwriter, and the fashionable whimsy of her baby doll skirts and bright cowboy boots stand in stark contrast to the hard scrabble poetry she writes. "Carrying Lightning" is a rich, sophisticated record, where Shires' mix runs from sugary-sweet ("Ghost Bird" and "She Let Go of the Kite") to 30 grit grind of ("When You Need a Train..." and "Swimmer"). "Shake the Walls" and "Sloe Gin" will grab you in places you nearly forgot. "Carrying Lightning" is a glimpse inside the heart of the sweet girl next door, but discovering more raw emotion and sophisticated confidence than you imagined. All the songs are hers with the exception of "Detroit or Buffalo," written by Barbara Keith in the '70s. Amanda has it all including an ear for neglected gems. With echoes of Emmylou, Dolly, and Loretta (even a little Dusty), Shires' voice, in equal measures, soars like an angel and catches you short, hair standing, like a soft kiss behind your ear. She can sing as powerfully as a spotlight on a deer, and as delicately as a paper lantern hanging on a lone pine. Is the world ready for another sweet-as-pecan-pie fiddle playing chanteuse? Amanda Shires is Tom Waits and Loretta Lynn to Allison Krauss' Billy Joel and Olivia Newton-John. Reviewed by Todd Townsend.

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