Amanda Shires, Down Fell the Doves
Strange and spry country with eccentricities running wild
When Amanda Shires sings about the devil on “Deep Dark Below,” a standout on her latest album, he “plays a mean fiddle and his bow’s made of bone.” The Texas native plays a mean bow herself: She joined the Texas Playboys at 15 and has backed an array of musicians, including Justin Townes Earle, Todd Snider and her husband Jason Isbell. Members of his band the 400 Unit back her on Down Fell the Doves, creating a strange and spry country sound that fits her fantastical lyrics about emotional risk and unfathomable doubt. Musically and lyrically, Shires lets her eccentricities run wild, whether she’s pondering invincibility on the unsettling daydream “Bulletproof” or wondering about death’s “beautiful dream” on “Box Cutters.” Her fiddle ranges fluidly from textural to melodic, as she plucks, bows and strums feverishly. One minute she’s holding her own against Isbell’s abrasive electric guitar on “Devastate”; the next she’s conjuring a full Stax horn section on “Stay.” On Down Fell the Doves, Shires isn’t fiddling to beat the devil. Instead, she draws her bow to keep the darkness at bay.