In a nutshell, Bored & Dangerous says: “For someone who could easily rely on the pure prettiness of her voice, Amanda Shires doesn’t seem interested in taking that easy way out.”
I first became aware of Amanda Shires a few years ago when Jason Isbell released his breakthrough solo record, Southeastern. While I found her perfectly up to the job of filling out his music with her voice and violin, I never thought of her as all that essential. Then, I saw Isbell live without Shires joining him on the Australian leg of his tour. That night, I was nothing short of blown away by Isbell and his band. But as fantastic as they were, I couldn’t help but notice a bit of a hole left by Shires’ absent voice and violin. It was a big enough hole to make me immediately more appreciative of what she does, and make me want to hear what she can do when front and centre, instead backing things is up. Which is why I listened to Amada Shires solo record, Down Fell the Doves.
I was expecting fiddle, I was expecting ukulele. What I wasn’t expecting was the spiritual like chant and sparse instrumentation of Look Like a Bird. Even if I was expecting that, I wouldn’t have been expecting Shires to deliver it so well. There’s an ominous tone to this song that makes it hauntingly attention grabbing, while never sounding like it’s trying to grab your attention. And when her violin comes in, it only compounds that haunting non challans.
Country, soft rock is the order of the day on Devastate, with some southern fried, gothic darkness on Deep Dark Below. On an album where I was expecting a good amount of soft ballads and sadness, Down Fell the Dove’s first moment of real gentleness comes in the early stages of the second half with If I. For someone who could easily rely on the pure prettiness of her voice, Amanda Shires doesn’t seem interested in taking that easy way out.
If I, and its direct follower Stay, both use that prettiness, but they don’t rely on it. While the rest of the record makes her push herself to stand out against some loud and driving music. But the quieter moments are here to stay in the second half, as the lush strings of The Drop and Lift leads into the piano bar sultriness of A Song for Leonard Cohen before the melancholic beauty of closer, The Garden Song.
I knew Amanda Shires was much more than just a member of Jason Isbell’s band before listening to Down Fell the Doves, but I had no idea how versatile and unique Amanda Shires was until I listened to Down Fell Doves. What I expected was decent fiddle and ukulele fuelled modern Americana, tilted towards country. What I got was a complex, rich combination of Americana, country, a little southern rock, grandeur and ambition that always pays off.