Having always addressed several personal and heartfelt issues that affect the masses through her music, the new album from Amanda Shires titled To The Sunset is no different, and her ability to connect with fans and listeners everywhere is showcased well through opening number ‘Parking Lot Pirouette’, which lyrically focuses on the effort it can take to even try – and fail – to walk away from an individual who, for whatever reason, is no good for you.
For a number of years, Shires, it has been said – particularly by critics – has often been left in the shadow of her talented husband, a star and superb song-writer in his own right, Jason Isbell, but on this album, it’s he who plays second fiddle to the talents of his wife, with his noticeable role on this collection being as the guitar player. This time around in particular, there’s an eclectic, almost electric sort of sharpness to Shires’ voice that not only ensures she takes centre stage, together with her songs, but also allows her to harness the power and precision of a great country singer while all the while performing as an artist more styled to the southern rock genre that’s growing in popularity.
If there’s one thing that sets Shires apart from many of fellow artists, it’s her ability to create and share love-song lyrics that are immensely specific and also deeply evocative, two examples being “I envy your clothes, how they get to be so close”, as featured on ‘Leave It Alone’, and “The fear that I feel when I see my features reversed in my own daughter’s face”, as mentioned in ‘Charms’.
‘Eve’s Daughter’, sung from the perspective of a woman who can never seem to settle in one place as she searches for and chases what makes her happy, will resonate with anyone trying to find that one place – or person – they can call home, through lyrics such as: “He was 23, he was out on leave, and the rest gets a little blurry.” At times on the album, it can be hard to decipher whether or not Shires is addressing her own thoughts and feelings, or simply more general ones, but certainly when she sings “It’s OK to fall apart” during ‘Take On The Dark’, there’s no denying she sounds as if she 100% believes such a statement to be true. It’s only a few words, but they’re powerful ones, and at a time when mental health issues and conversations are gradually becoming increasingly more prevalent in the media and general society, they could make a huge difference to someone who hears them and is struggling.
The highlight of the album however comes via closing number ‘Wasn’t I Paying Attention?’ Written about a recovering addict, a man who drives into the town centre of Nome, Alaska before slitting his throat and setting his truck on fire, it’s by no means an easy or comfortable listen, but the way in which Shires tells the story – almost as if she’s put herself in his shoes – makes the song both immersive and emotive, and a track which is sure to linger with those who hear it long after it’s ended.
To The Sunset is out now on Thirty Tigers/Silver Knife.