AMANDA SHIRES – Tickets – Neighborhood Theatre – Charlotte, NC – December 2nd, 2018

AMANDA SHIRES

Neighborhood Theatre & MaxxMusic present

AMANDA SHIRES

Cory Branan

Sun 12/2

Doors: 7:00 pm / Show: 8:00 pm

Neighborhood Theatre

$22 adv/$25 dos

$3 Under 21 Surcharge at Door (Valid ID required for entry into venue. Under 18 permitted with parent.)

Accepted forms of ID: State Issued ID or Driver's License, Military ID, Passport.

AMANDA SHIRES
AMANDA SHIRES
To The Sunset

“It’s all rock & roll – no golf!” is how acclaimed singer/songwriter/violinist Amanda Shires describes her electrifying fifth album, To The Sunset. She’s borrowed a lyric from the effervescent track “Break Out the Champagne,” one of ten deftly crafted songs that comprise her powerful new recording. The Texas-born road warrior, new mom, and recently minted MFA in creative writing has mined a range of musical influences to reveal an Amanda Shires many didn’t know existed. “Isn’t it refreshing?” Shires asks. Indeed. Distorted electric guitars, effects pedals, swirling keys and synths, and rockin’ rhythms certainly suit Shires’ visceral songcraft and lilting soprano.

It’s been a jam-packed eighteen months since the release of Shires’ critically hailed My Piece of Land: constant touring with her band and as a member of husband Jason Isbell’s 400 Unit; finishing her MFA, after her laptop and thesis were stolen on the road; and winning the Americana Association’s 2017 Emerging Artist award – all while nurturing a toddler. Armed with stacks of journals and an autoharp originally owned by venerable songwriter/producer Paul Kennerley, she wrote a batch of new songs in a flurry of focus and enforced solitude – in a closet at the Shires/Isbell rural abode. “With a two-year-old running around, there’s nowhere to hide,” Shires explains. While Isbell watched their daughter, she wrote from 10 am till midnight: “I just started writing and tearing apart my journals and taping the parts I liked to the wall, and shredding the rest and putting it into my compost, which I then feed to my garden.”

She reconvened with Land’s producer Dave Cobb (Isbell; Sturgill Simpson) at Nashville’s historic sound-drenched RCA Studio A, with likeminded sonic adventurers, drummer Jerry Pentecost and keyboardist Peter Levin, alongside Isbell on guitar and Cobb on bass. Of course, she brought the fiddle she’s been playing since a teen, touring with Western swing stalwarts, the Texas Playboys. Only this time, she added effects pedals, distorting the instrument with which she’s accompanied Billy Joe Shaver, John Prine, and Todd Snider into something otherworldly. “I had never tried pedals before,” says Shires, “and I wanted to change my fiddle sound. I’ve been playing this instrument the same way for so long, and playing with pedals is so fun for me!” Likewise, she also revisited an early original, her hook-laden “Swimmer,” with pianist Levin’s “miles of keyboard that sound so huge.”

While writing such stunners as the enchanting “Parking Lot Pirouette,” haunting “Charms,” and raucous “Eve’s Daughter,” she thought about their sonics. “I explained to Dave that I wanted the songs to have atmosphere,” Shires recalls. “That the album was going to be sort of poppy, and that I was doing that to bring some sunshine into the world, cause it’s pretty dark right now.” As she sings in her empowering “Take on the Dark,” buoyed by bouncy bass, machine-gun drumming, and swirling synth: “Worry can be a tumbling tumultuous sea/with all its roaring and its breaking/How ‘bout you be the waves/too unafraid to even be brave/and see yourself breaking out of this place.”

Shires is renowned for her carefully crafted, evocative songs. Just as she spent her youth as a journeyman fiddle player, Shires brought years of studying the masters to her songwriting. Impromptu encouragement from Shaver, for example, inspired her to take up the pen. “Before touring with Billy Joe Shaver, I was only a side person,” Shires avers. “I wasn’t a songwriter. I was observing. Then I made a couple of demo songs so people would know I could sing, and he said, ‘These are good songs. You should go be a songwriter in Nashville.’ I thought he was firing me, and I said, ‘No! I really like my job playing the fiddle. It’s my favorite thing to do.’ Then a year later, I decided he was right.”

Her influences include Leonard Cohen and John Prine, the latter of whom has been a mentor. “I was talking to John Prine while I was writing this record,” says Shires, “and he was talking about how using images that actually happened to you makes the songs true. Also, if you use images that you can see daily, it’s more relatable.” Shires took his advice to heart in such memorable tracks as “Break Out the Champagne.” “It’s all true!” says the resilient Shires. The near-plane crash over Newfoundland, her BFF Kelly’s fears about our apocalyptic times, another friend’s heavy breakup.

Shires says she also uses songwriting as a way to “get through my own emotional stuff, which is cheaper than a therapist.” An example is the Hammond B3-fueled “White Feather” with its “scarecrow” imagery. The idea struck when she experienced “cat calling that’s become okay again,” then expanded to include her thoughts on climate change and capitalism, “but it’s bigger than that,” Shires clarifies. “The song deals with fear and all the ways it discourages the expression of our individual identities. It’s about the walls we put up to protect ourselves and the way those walls become prisons.” In the synth-ful “Mirror, Mirror,” she examines self-doubt, via the catchy refrain, “Show me something different/Than the mirror on the wall.” And shimmering guitars frame “Leave It Alone” with such realizations as “What you think you’re feeling is crushing at most.”

Other songs were derived from the lives of her mother and father, including 21st century Flannery O’Connor style album closer, “Wasn’t I Paying Attention?” “True story,” Shires asserts. “I couldn’t make it up.” The gripping tale, with its crunchy rock & roll soundtrack, will leave listeners on the edge of their seats, while tapping their toes.

As a whole, To The Sunset, says Shires, “is meant to be a positive thing. Acknowledging your past, and at sunset, your hope for a new day. ‘To The Sunset’ sounds like a toast: This day is over, we don’t know what’s in the future, but it’s hopeful, I think.”

Shires has drawn from her own past on To The Sunset – and pointed the way to her future. She has set the bar high – sonically and lyrically – and she’s jumped over it.
Cory Branan
Cory Branan
ADIOS is Cory Branan’s death record. Not the cheeriest of openings, but like all of Branan’s mercurial work, it’s probably not what you think. As funny and defiant as it is touching and sad, this self-dubbed “loser’s survival kit” doesn’t spare its subjects or the listener.

Not even Branan’s deceased father is let off the hook. In the tender homage “The Vow” he drolly cites his father’s favorite banality “that’s what you get for thinking” as “probably not the best lesson for kids.” For most songwriters that would be the punchline but Branan pushes through words and, in his father’s actions, finds a kind of “genius in the effortless way he just ‘did’.”

Not all the death on ADIOS is literal mortality. “Imogene” is sung from the wreckage of a love that once “poked fun at the pain, stoked the sun in the rain” but ends with the urgent call to “act on the embers, ash won’t remember the way back to fire.”

The trademark lyrical agility is mirrored sonically. Never a genre loyalist, ADIOS finds Branan (much like his musically restless heroes Elvis Costello and Tom Waits) coloring outside the lines in sometimes startling shades of fuzz and twang. While unafraid to play it arrow-straight when called for (“The Vow,” “Equinox,” “Don’t Go”), ADIOS veers wildly from the Buddy Holly-esque rave up “I Only Know” (sung with punk notables Laura Jane Grace and Dave Hause), through the swampy “Walls, MS” to the Costello-like new wave of “Visiting Hours.”

The blistering punk of “Another Nightmare in America” bops along daring listeners to “Look away, look away, move along, nothing to see here” (the song is written from the point of view of a racist killer cop). And as the mourning singer on “Cold Blue Moonlight” shifts from paralysis to panic, the song’s jazzy drone shifts to an almost Sabbath fury. The tonal shifts are always deliberate and not just simple genre hopping; while the turns can be jarring you can trust Branan to take you somewhere unexpected.

The 14-song album was self-produced and recorded in the spring of 2016 at Tweed Studios in Oxford, MS with a tight three piece: Branan on lead vocals and guitar (both electric and acoustic); Robbie Crowell (formerly of Deer Tick) on drums and percussion, keys, and horns; and James “Haggs” Haggerty on bass. Additionally, Amanda Shires contributes on fiddle and vocals, and Laura Jane Grace of Against Me! and Dave Hause provide guest vocals.

Cory Branan has four previous full-length releases: The Hell You Say (2002, Madjack Records), 12 Songs (2006, Madjack), Mutt (2012, Bloodshot Records), and The No-Hit Wonder (2014, Bloodshot). His music has received critical praise from the likes of Rolling Stone and Rolling Stone Country, NPR All Things Considered, Noisey, Wall Street Journal, Paste Magazine, Oxford American, Consequence of Sound, Southern Living, and many others.
Venue Information:
Neighborhood Theatre
511 East 36th Street
Charlotte, NC, 28205
http://www.neighborhoodtheatre.com/

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