Amanda Shires – To the Sunset

With a hint of Nanci Griffith and Conor Oberst, Amanda Shires is on fine form sounding nothing short of Presidential on To the Sunset

Album Review by Harry Harris | 03 Aug 2018
Album title: To the Sunset
Artist: Amanda Shires
Label: Silver Knife/Thirty Tigers
Release date: 3 Aug

Upon the release of her last record, Amanda Shires started getting described as the First Lady of Americana, a title befitting her rise to prominence, as well as her marriage to Jason Isbell. On To the Sunset, Shires sounds nothing short of Presidential.

Once again working with Americana producer du jour Dave Cobb, Shires uses this record to push her sound to another level. A peerless violin player, here the instrument is plugged in, distorted, delayed, and at times is unrecognisable. The result is something between a crunchy, electric guitar and atmospheric pedal steel, and provides a really unique texture throughout the album.

Shires' voice is on incredible form too. The opening track, Parking Lot Pirouette allows her to unleash into a roaring chorus within the first minute, which really sets the tone for the album. There's a quiver to her quieter moments that's sometimes reminiscent of Nanci Griffith, sometimes Conor Oberst, and she moves between these two registers with ease.

The record strikes a bittersweet note throughout, positivity in the face of tragedy. On Break Out the Champagne, Shires sings about finding those chinks of light in moments of darkness, the three verses detailing the end of a relationship, apocalyptic prophecy, and realising that an engine has blown on your flight. There's a great clarity to the song, and the imagery Shires chooses, as well as a wry, dark sense of humour. When the chorus line comes in, it sounds nothing short of triumphant.

I suppose First Lady of Americana is quite a nice description, but rightly or wrongly, it does sound as if she's stood in someone's shadow. On To the Sunset, everyone is stood in hers. 

Listen to: Break Out the Champagne, Leave It Alone