Amanda Shires album review: ‘Down Fell the Doves’


Amanda Shires will perform in the Washington, DC area. (Erica Shires)
January 2, 2014
AMANDA SHIRES
“Down Fell the Doves”

Kindred spirits: The Be Good Tanyas,
Laura Veirs, Rhiannon Giddens

Show: With Taylor Carson with Mark Williams on Wednesday at Gypsy Sally’s. Show starts at 8 p.m. 202-333-7700. www.gypsysallys.com. $8 in advance,
$10 at the door.

Like Alison Krauss, Amanda Shires was a teenage fiddle prodigy before folks realized she was a special singer, too. Shires’s voice may not match Krauss’s once-in-a-generation soprano, but unlike her predecessor, Shires also is a terrific songwriter, and that’s the key to the triumph of her new album, “Down Fell the Doves.” Her songs often resemble twisted fairy tales for adults, where devils inhabit the weak-minded, a tiger claw makes you bulletproof and a woman can fly to the top of a tree like a bird.

Shires makes us believe these tall tales. Her short, concise lines are bolstered by a few eye-opening metaphors and simple, ear-opening melodies, as if these were folk songs from an alternate universe. Backed by a folk-rock combo led by her husband, former Drive-By Truckers rocker Jason Isbell, Shires uses her otherworldly stories to deliver insights into our very real world of jealousy, elation, insecurity and despair.

Shires turns into a bird to lose her fear of flying and lies in the chalk outline of a murder victim to lose her fear of dying. When she emerges from a dizzying amusement-park ride on the rocking, catchy “Wasted and Rolling,” we understand that her description of the trees spinning and singing is both real and unreal, both true and untrue, like the best fairy tales and folk songs.

Geoffrey Himes

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