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Shires talks and talks and even plays music

Great Scott, Boston, January 12, 2014

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

Amanda Shires must not have been joking when she said before her show even started that she had not talked with anyone during the day. After all, her lone band mate, upright bassist Steph Dickinson had her intended visiting.

Shires, who presumably always has her man to talk with when she is on the road with her husband Jason Isbell, was in a most chatty mood throughout her 75-minute show. Matter of fact, she knew it too because Shires self-admitted that she was "rambling" on more than one occasion.

That would have been okay - to an extent - if her stories were engaging or funny, but she fell short on that mark all too often whether talking about how she was glad people washed their hands when they went to the nearby bathroom in earshot of the stage or was interested in developing "real friends" among the 50 people gathered to hear her or her engaging rapper Sir Mix-A-Lot on Twitter.

But since this was a music show, not a monologue, at least people could walk away satisfied that when Shires did stick with the music, it at least sounded quite good.

Shires occupies a musical space that does not so easily fit into any particular easily identified territory these days. She's a bit folky, less country, more rootsy, more on the softer side than anything approaching full force (it's awfully hard to forge a powerful musical sound - and this is no criticism whatsoever - when the instrumentation consists of upright bass and either ukulele or subdued, mood inducing electric guitar or very occasionally a fiddle).

Shires, who has four solo albums to her credit, played a chunk of her most recent effort, "Down Fell the Doves" with "Wasted and Rollin'," one of the more upbeat songs played, a particular standout. "When You Need a Train It Never Comes" from 2011's "Carrying Lightning" was another high point.

Shires is an adept vocalist. She doesn't have an overpowering voice, although she showed she was capable of that on more than one occasion. She's keen on her phrasing, keeping the lyrics short and to the point while often punctuating her words with the electric guitar filling and bridging spaces. Shires recalls Tift Merritt, although not quite as pretty a voice. Dickinson often contributed backing vocals, but, like most of the music, in a more subdued offering.

Let's hope that Shires was being a straight shooter - she seemed like she was - when she said she usually didn't talk so much. Doing so would have served her better on this night, but, fortunately, the music stood up. It just took awhile to get there.

©Country Standard Time • Jeffrey B. Remz, editor & publisher •
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