Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Amanda Shires

  • My Piece of Land [Silver Knife, 2016] **
  • To the Sunset [Silver Knife, 2018] A-
  • Take It Like a Man [ATO, 2022] A

Consumer Guide Reviews:

My Piece of Land [Silver Knife, 2016]
Unsurprisingly given her ax, go-to alt-country violinist sounds more herself on the twisty, evocative melodies than the direct, declarative rockers ("Harmless," "The Way It Dimmed," "Pale Fire") **

To the Sunset [Silver Knife, 2018]
Although premier violinist and respected singer-songwriter Shires comes by most of her current swell of fame as Jason Isbell's wife, bedrock, and babymama, you wouldn't guess it from the advances she's made in these 10 coolly autonomous, acutely turned, observantly experienced songs. Her soprano incisive over arrangements longer on echo and electronics than you'd expect from tradmaster Dave Cobb, she deals more candidly with attraction ("Parking Lot Pirouette"), lust ("Leave It Alone"), personal rivalry ("Break Out the Champagne"), and even suicide ("Wasn't I Paying Attention?") than supportive domestic partners are expected to, and hardly plays her violin at all. That's how you end up with an album that takes some getting used to not just because it's unexpected but because it's halfway to sui generis. A-

Take It Like a Man [ATO, 2022]
Shires has told interviewers that several of the 10 songs on this album reflect dicey patches in her marriage to Jason Isbell. But that's no reason to get literal about who's who or what's what. Ultimately they're songs, which like all works of art generate formal imperatives that seldom jibe perfectly with the life experiences that got them started. They don't even leave much room for Shires's violin, and often retain a rawness that prevents them from snapping shut cleverly the way good little well-turned cheating songs do. Several project a sexuality all the more convincing because it's so raw; others end in the emotional middle, before the resolution we're craving is achieved; quite a few feel profound. The part I like best comes dead center, when one that ends "You could say it's all my fault/We just couldn't get along/And if anyone asks I'll say what's true/And really it's I don't know" leads immediately to one that begins "Just when you think you've had enough/All you could take/When you think you've got no more heart left to break/Here he comes." A