Amanda Shires Dan's Silverleaf Saturday, March 24
It's a little surprising Amanda Shires isn't a country supernova yet, and more surprising she has no representation, not even a tiny indie label from her native Texas or current home of Nashville. She started playing the violin at the age of 10, and at 15, she earned a spot playing with the Texas Playboys in Lubbock after moving there from her hometown, Mineral Wells. She later co-founded the Thrift Store Cowboys before pursuing a solo career. She tours feverishly, this time aptly backed by country guitarist Rod Picott.
"She has a really powerful voice for such a little person," gushed Crystal Allen, this being her fourth time seeing Shires. She knows most of the lyrics and sings along when applicable. She and her new husband, David Jensen, even danced to one of her songs at their 2010 wedding.
Shires doesn't seem to have a specific demographic, as couples in their 70s sat beside families who brought kids, who sat beside twentysomethings.
She switched between her baritone ukulele and violin while filling the bar with her honeyed vocals, which flow in a space between alto and soprano, somewhere between Hope Sandoval and Dolly Parton. Along with many songs from three solo records, she covered "I'm Your Man," Leonard Cohen's doting heartbreaker (Cohen, she says, is her favorite writer of all time, and his influence shows), which lifted the crowd to ferocious applause and resulted in a prolonged plea for an encore, led by Dan's sound man, Jimmy Smith, shouting "We love your music!" Maybe he was being silly, but after the show, several people hurried to get in line to buy her newest album, 2011's Carrying Lightning.
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By the way: Look out for Charlie Shafter. His songwriting is mature beyond his 27 years, and his set was as commanding as they come. He and Shires made a great pairing.