Thursday, March 29, 2012
Amanda Shires’ velvet-voiced melodies, swaddled in ambient strings, ring similar to not-so-country artists like Wilco (with the same ability to belt out a fierce lick), and her dark imagery has been likened to the gritty lyrics of Tom Waits. It’s enough to wonder if Shires’ disillusioned lyrics are contemporary, or merely old dirt under a cowboy’s nails.
She leads her sets with charming self deprecation that only grows as she plunges into bravely emotional songs, scantly hidden behind gentle strumming of her ukulele. Songs like these are just a surprising facet of Shires’ robust country fiddle style.
“She has good lyrics, she’s not mainstream, and she has a quirky aesthetic. That makes people think Tom Waits. It’s a nod to ‘she’s cool,’ – but she’s unique Americana,” says LoneStarMusic magazine editor Richard Skanse.
Part of an East Nashville brand of edgy, country-infused music, Shires got her chops up on country swing starting at age 10, and also playing for the legendary Texas Playboys. Her underlying talent is in her frenetic presence. She plays with or accompanies a slew of country talents at any given time.
“I would get roped back into being a side fiddle. I had to go somewhere where I didn’t know anyone in order to start over. I didn’t know it until I left, how important writing was to me,” she says.
She rejects Being Brave, a 2005 country fiddle instrumental, as her first album. She would have to reach deeper still for bravery when she relocated and began waiting tables to fund her first singer/songwriter solo, West Cross Timbers.
“I currently realize starting over is a theme,” she says. “I started out playing the violin, then hating it because I wanted more. I found improvisation in fiddle. That was what I wanted. Like playing songs led me to want to write my own, I needed both.”
Her songs alternate between wanton vocals and country whimpers with violin for sparse atmosphere and tone, and forcefully sung tracks with a county swing kick. They’re all pretty, and they’re all pretty brave.
AMANDA SHIRES and THE GOOD SAMS play 7pm Saturday, March 31, Monterey County Fairgrounds, 2004 Fairgrounds Road., Monterey. $15/adults; $12/military, seniors, students. 21 and over. 372-5863.