Fiddle player, vocalist, backup singer and songwriter West Texan Amanda Shires has in Carrying Lightning an album full of vibrant creative energy that blows like a ‘twister’ as she demonstrates, her eclectic persona in full. Not one to be saddled with any particular sound, Shires to date has three albums to her name first there was her duo record with Rod Picott (who with David Henry and Shires produced Carrying Lightning) Sew Your Heart With Wires (2008) and then in 2009 came her first solo album West Cross Timbers. Not one to walk the same line every day Shires has her irons in a few fires, for not only does she sing backup on other act’s albums (Drive-By Truckers, Rod Picott etc) but she also plays in a western swing band, Thrift Store Cowboys and she features as the fiddle player in Gwyneth Paltrow’s country band in the Hollywood movie Country Strong, that is apart from her 120 – 160 live shows a year that take her across America and through Europe too.
Shires habit of thrusting, headlong into her music with no fear of having to explain, fully, the meaning of it all she weaves wonderful vignettes for everyone to take to heart as they see them. Only minute she is animated (‘Shake The Walls’) as she is driven by a sexual urge and the next, fully contented as in the prettily picked ‘Detroit To Buffalo’ and then on drawing comparisons to Eliza Gilkyson ‘She let go Of Her Kite’ veers between peaceful interludes to burst of high energy as she speaks of it ‘letting go’ of a relationship. The fire of Shire’s impassioned piece is perfectly fired by fiddle and incessant percussion (Tommy Perkinson). An unusual talent, Shires starts the album away with the ‘Swimmer’ that has her speak of an old love carrying lightning the way he walked into the room and how if she were a flower, she would’ve opened up and bloomed. Most songs on the album, if not all of them concern love in some shape or form and her twist of life; and like I mentioned she is an intriguing artist, who for one thing she can whistle too (not the strongest trait of female recording acts).
I would also compare, favourably her finely written and superbly performed ‘When You Need A Train It Never Comes’ with Eliza's best. An outstanding piece of work I believe it to be the best song on the album as her fabulous vocals are escorted by the wondrous steel guitar of Chris Scruggs and her own, gorgeous fiddle work. It has a number of rivals as the understated, fiddle warmed dreamy delight ‘Kudzu’ melted my heart and there are the cuts ‘Lovesick I Remain’ (that has a quirkiness to it; another to whom Amanda’s style reminds of the likewise creative young talent, Anais Mitchell) and on whisked along as if on a stiff breeze ‘Ghost Bird’. A song about…, I believe one sharing their concerns, troubles with a confidant. Musician wise Picott (acoustic, electric guitar), Colt Miller (banjo), David Henry (strings, percussion, pianos),Neal Casal (electric, acoustic guitar, harmony vocals), Paul Slivka (bass), Steph Dickinson (upright bass) and Kris Killingworth (drums) are the other players aiding her vocals, fiddle, ukulele, strings and whistling (‘Swimmer’).
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