Amanda Shires (Second Jazz Fest Weekend) Thursday, April 30, Fais Do-Do Stage, 4:25 p.m.
When it comes to writing and music, Amanda Shires has many talents.
She is a fine fiddle player, expressive vocalist, and an excellent songwriter and wordsmith.
Besides her musical work, she is also close to completing her Masters in Poetry from the Sewanee School of Letters, so she is used to working on her writing. “When I have time, I write and rewrite and rewrite,” she says on the phone from the road where she is opening up for the Gregg Allman Band. “I rarely write something all the way through and say it’s done. That’s the kind of writing I do. Sometimes when you’re writing, you want to get the story there and shape of it and the flow of it, and you can get some really beautiful things. And there are some things that you know you have to fix. Like anybody who enjoys writing, we want our words to mean what we say and be precise.”
Shires’ songs have that certain precision both of word and delivery. Songs such as “Bulletproof,” where the narrator receives a kind of gris-gris charm that might make her impervious to bullets and fantasizes if it works with other weapons and thinks to “try out the throwing stars/bring out the switchblades.”
Shires holds back just a moment before she sings the final words of each line as if she and the audience should be surprised at what being bulletproof could offer. Her songs fit well in the Americana rock ’n’ roll vein, but sound modern without being too clean. Her voice has the slightly flat accent of her native Lubbock and Mineral Wells, Texas where she lived and learned violin until she moved to Nashville in 2009.
“I decided to be a songwriter, and moved to Nashville and decided to try to be my own artist and not be dependent on work as a fiddle player for other people’s bands. I got a job waiting tables and just told myself I was going to write and get gigs and play music, and then I recorded [her first record] Westcross Timbers. Once I did that, I quit my waiting job. I mean, I liked waiting tables, but that wasn’t what I wanted to do with my life.”
Her voice also has a slight quiver and an intimacy, almost like it is right beside you or whispering in your ear on both wild romantic rockers like “Wasted and Rolling” or more macabre tales of “Deep Dark Below.” It makes the music sound familiar even if a listener hasn’t heard it before. She says that this is a part of her purpose in making the music.
She states, “I think the spirit of people making music or writing is connection. I appreciate connection. I want to be out there making new friends and looking around the room, and hopefully by being open and talking to folks, that comes across. When I look out across the audience, I feel like I can be friends with each one of these people. I think it comes across.”