Amanda Shires (photo by Elizaveta Porodina, PR)
To The Sunset
Silver Knife Records
Texas native Amanda Shires, a violinist, singer and songwriter, stirs things up with a new album that reshapes and redefines her music. Two years after her last solo record, My Piece Of Land, the release of To The Sunset, Shires’ sixth solo album, arrives as a declaration of independence, demonstrating her willingness to push her own boundaries.
Shires was still in her mid-teens when she joined the Texas Playboys, the former band of western swing legend Bob Wills. By 2005, she'd kicked off a solo career while simultaneously touring and recording with other artists, including a collaborative release with Rod Picott (2009's Sew Your Heart with Wires) and her husband Jason Isbell, whom she married in 2013, on the 2015 EP Sea Songs. Shires still often plays in Isbell’s backing band, the 400 Unit, and she's inspired Isbell's songwriting in recent years too.
Shires doesn’t abandon her country and folk roots on To The Sunset, but her songs are brushed with a denser, hazier sound. She worked closely with Dave Cobb, the acclaimed Americana producer who recently guided John Prine’s 2017 album, The Tree Of Forgiveness, which also featured Shires and Isbell.
Cobb and Shires' friendship and their familiarity with each other's vision helped drive To the Sunset's direction and its broad, sometimes raucous range. The garage rock grunginess of “Eve’s Daughter" and the semi-acoustic “Charms” were both inspired by Shires' mother. The twangy pop of “Break Out The Champagne” references a scare Shires experienced while flying, while the synth-drenched “Mirror, Mirror” and the soulfully ominous “Parking Lot Pirouette" are very different, but equally compelling.
No matter what tempo or topic, all of the songs on To The Sunset are layered with elements of distortion, echo, and reverb. Shires’ reedy, supple voice — with shades of Dolly Parton's pluck — is given jolts of electrified energy that might seem to contradict the pureness of its tone, but emphasizes an appealing toughness instead.
Shires plays violin — electrified and not — and Isbell and Cobb both play guitars and bass throughout the album. Gillian Welch makes an appearance on the song “White Feather.”
With To the Sunset, Shires alters the textures of her melodies and arrangements, while retaining the same core of country, rock and folk that's her foundation. She's comfortable where she is at and confident in her abilities to invent, shapeshift, and alter her path.