When: Thu., Aug. 17, 8 p.m. 2017
Even if Amanda Shires never sang or wrote a note, her fiddle playing still leaves plenty to consider. We're talking about somebody who was playing with The Texas Playboys (yes, Bob Wills's Western swing trailblazers) when she was just fifteen. No matter how old you are, you don't get to fill the fiddle spot with the Playboys unless you're a mighty musician. And as an adult, Shires has played with everybody from Shovels & Rope and Todd Snider to John Prine and Justin Townes Earle, not to mention being a part of Jason Isbell's own band (she's also married to the guy). In summation, the lady can saw a fiddle like nobody's business.
But then you get around to the singer-songwriter side of Shire's talents—she's not exactly lacking in that department, either. Shires released her first album, Being Brave, back in 2005, but that was more focused on her instrumental skills than her songsmith savvy. She developed as a writer over the course of her next couple of records, including one made in collaboration with Americana heavyweight Rod Picott. It was on 2011's Down Came the Doves that she finally began to fully realize her own artistic vision. Her blend of alt-country and folk influences, her airy but visceral vocal delivery, and her knack for making poetic observations with a minimum of lyrical fuss came together on that album. She continued to evolve her approach even further with last year's My Piece of Land.
Toward the end of the year, Shires is hitting with both John Prine and Willie Nelson & Family, following a few other stints with Isbell. But in between those august assignments, she's giving listeners a brief batch of opportunities to catch her as a headliner, delivering her tunes onstage with all the energy and emotion she can muster. And as has undoubtedly been made clear by this point, that's something you ought to see happen. —Jim Allen