Sounding like a confluence of Emmylou Harris and Lucinda
Williams – packing their own mini orchestra to boot – Amanda Shires reemerges with
her strongest-sounding effort to date, one that ought to boost her profile in
Americana circles. She’s come close before; both she and co-producing partner
Rod Picott are formidable players and performers. But in a real sense, Carrying Lightning lives up to its
branding, with an energy and emotion that’s practically palpable.
Shires is a dynamic presence, and yet she’s able to meld
different personas; there’s the sensitive strains of a singer songwriter – as
delineated in the delicate touch of “Bees in the Shed” (which seems to draw on
Joni Mitchell as an influence), “Detroit or Buffalo” (the album’s sole cover)
and “Sloe Gin” — as well as the feisty strains of a seductive siren, cast in
the percolating, pent-up delivery of “Ghost Bird,” the gypsy tango of “Shake
the Walls” and the casual ukulele strum of “Lovesick I Remain.” Violin is her
primary instrument (she was prominently featured on Jason Isbell’s latest
album, Here We Rest), and she casts it well throughout,
whether it’s providing the searing strains that boost the brittle,
emotionally-charged “She Let Go Of Her Kite,” or part of an entire string
section on “Kudzu,” a tender love song that earns its–expansive treatment.
Yet, she doesn’t stop there; the whistling refrain of “Winner…” and the easy
lope of “When You Need a Train, It Never Comes” define her to a fault and set
her apart in the process.
A superb supporting cast also helps of course – Picott and
noted guitarists Will Kimbrough and Neal Casal, among them – but there’s no
denying Shires herself as a tour-de-force, a singer, songwriter and musician
who possesses the entire package and evidences it here. A revelatory offering
in every sense, Carrying Lightning makes an indelible impression.
Bird,” “When You Need a Train, It Never Comes,” “She Let Go Of Her Kite” LEE