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ALBUM OF THE MONTH: Amanda Shires - To the Sunset (Silver Knife Records)
When I was first given the opportunity to speak to Amanda Shires back in 2012, I felt I was talking to an artist entrenched in what we know as the sound of Americana, but I soon discovered her desire to make radio-friendly pop songs too; "if they don't have drums on the track, nobody's gonna hear it" admitted the singer at the time. Amanda had already released a couple of albums and has since released a couple more. With this fifth release, the Texas-born, now Nashville-based singer songwriter has moved into a refreshingly new phase, taking a new direction with some of her most personal songs to date. More confident as a songwriter, performer and musician, the ten songs sound contemporary enough to enable them to straddle the borders between mature song writing and radio-friendly pop. Amongst the new songs is a new reading of an older song, the song that opened her 2011 release CARRYING LIGHTNING, giving the record its title. The whistled intro on Swimmer has been revamped and replaced by a slick arrangement, yet the song still stands out as the most accessible, commercial, radio-friendly song on the album.
Produced once again by Dave Cobb, who also plays bass, the album also features contributions by Jason Isbell on guitar, Peter Levin on keyboards and Jerry Pentecost on drums. Having travelled the road widely, playing 'first' fiddle to Rod Picott amongst others, and more recently with husband Jason Isbell, Shires has pretty much established herself as a solo artist in her own right with songs that are both varied and accomplished, notably Parking Lot Pirouette and the ballsy Break Out the Champagne, written after an air disaster 'near miss', and with an already suspicious attitude towards the safety of air travel. Fortunately, Amanda Shires was spared and was determined to get on with the show.