Amanda Shires: My Piece of Land

Photo: Josh Wool

Disciplined and literary, Shires' latest is still a highly personal work.

Amanda Shires

My Piece of Land

Label: BMG
US Release Date: 2016-09-16
UK Release Date: 2016-09-16

Over the years, Amanda Shires has built a substantial resume recording and touring with the likes of Billy Joe Shaver, John Prine, Todd Snider, the Texas Playboys, Shovels & Rope, Justin Townes Earle, and husband Jason Isbell. However, she's also built a strong solo career of her own with five increasingly satisfying records, starting with 2007's Being Brave, on through 2011's Carrying Lightning and 2013's Down Fell the Doves. Her sixth and latest record, My Piece of Land, continues that upward trajectory, standing as one of 2016's best records.

In contrast to Down Fell the Doves, which showed flashes of absolute brilliance above and beyond what was already a package of consistently strong songs, My Piece of Land sounds like a more cohesive record. Part of that is probably due to Dave Cobb's sympathetic production, but the lion's share of the credit goes to Shires' strong vision for the album, which addresses issues of home and family -- although that's not always as comforting as it initially sounds. Album opener "The Way It Dimmed" is full of fire imagery and leaving, as is "Slippin'", in which Shires sings, "There'll be a trigger, then up starts the fire / A handful of matches, some faulty wiring / You'll say you have this hollow feeling / Something's always been missing / Tonight could be the night you go slippin' from me." With its mean guitar tone, violin screeches, and storm imagery, "My Love (The Storm)" hearkens back to Down Fell the Doves' "Devastate", although from a sunnier perspective. The mournful violin that kicks off "You Are My Home" speaks of pain preceding the relationship that the song praises (and gives the album's title a meaning beyond just the homesteads throughout Shires' songs). Longtime fans will recognize that she also revisits the home- and memory-drenched "Mineral Wells" (from 2009's West Coast Timbers), taking a few tasteful liberties with the original's unadorned acoustic-based arrangement.

When listening to My Piece of Land, it's hard not to think of Lisa Germano, another in-demand violinist who carved out her own unique solo career. While Shires doesn't venture into the same experimental waters as Germano, and certainly doesn't sound like she's exorcising demons in the same fashion, there's an impressive consistency of vision and purpose in Shires's work. For the past five years, Shires has pursued an M.F.A. in creative writing, and it shows in her songs. The stories and reflections on My Piece of Land obviously come from a personal place, but Shires's lyrics are literary, patient, and disciplined. As a result, My Piece of Land occupies that curious country/singer-songwriter middle ground where some of the most interesting roots/Americana/whatever music is being made. Pigeonhole it and label it if you need to, but My Piece of Land is a signature work that should satisfy fans of many genres.







The 10 Best Experimental Albums of 2015

Music of all kinds are tending toward a consciously experimental direction. Maybe we’re finally getting through to them.


John Lewis, C.T. Vivian, and Their Fellow Freedom Riders Are Celebrated in 'Breach of Peace'

John Lewis and C.T. Vivian were titans of the Civil Rights struggle, but they are far from alone in fighting for change. Eric Etheridge's masterful then-and-now project, Breach of Peace, tells the stories of many of the Freedom Riders.


Unwed Sailor's Johnathon Ford Discusses Their New Album and 20 Years of Music

Johnathon Ford has overseen Unwed Sailor for more than 20 years. The veteran musician shows no sign of letting up with the latest opus, Look Alive.

Jedd Beaudoin

Jazz Trombonist Nick Finzer Creates a 'Cast of Characters'

Jazz trombonist Nick Finzer shines with his compositions on this mainstream jazz sextet release, Cast of Characters.


Datura4 Travel Blues-Rock Roads on 'West Coast Highway Cosmic'

Australian rockers Datura4 take inspiration from the never-ending coastal landscape of their home country to deliver a well-grounded album between blues, hard rock, and psychedelia.


Murder Is Most Factorial in 'Eighth Detective'

Mathematician Alex Pavesi's debut novel, The Eighth Detective, posits mathematical rules defining 'detective fiction'.


Eyedress Sets Emotions Against Shoegaze Backdrops on 'Let's Skip to the Wedding'

Eyedress' Let's Skip to the Wedding is a jaggedly dreamy assemblage of sounds that's both temporally compact and imaginatively expansive, all wrapped in vintage shoegaze ephemera.


Of Purges and Prescience: On David France's LGBTQ Documentary, 'Welcome to Chechnya'

The ongoing persecution of LGBTQ individuals in Chechnya, or anywhere in the world, should come as no surprise, or "amazement". It's a motif undergirding the history of civil society that certain people will always be identified for extermination.


Padma Lakshmi's 'Taste the Nation' Questions What, Exactly, Is American Food

Can food alone undo centuries of anti-immigrant policies that are ingrained in the fabric of the American nation? Padma Lakshmi's Taste the Nation certainly tries.


Performing Race in James Whale's 'Show Boat'

There's a song performed in James Whale's musical, Show Boat, wherein race is revealed as a set of variegated and contradictory performances, signals to others, a manner of being seen and a manner of remaining hidden, and it isn't "Old Man River".


The Greyboy Allstars Rise Up to Help America Come Together with 'Como De Allstars'

If America could come together as one nation under a groove, Karl Denson & the Greyboy Allstars would be leading candidates of musical unity with their funky new album, Como De Allstars.


The Beatles' 'Help!' Redefined How Personal Popular Music Could Be 55 Years Ago

Help! is the record on which the Beatles really started to investigate just how much they could get away with. The album was released 55 years ago this week, and it's the kick-off to our new "All Things Reconsidered" series.


Porridge Radio's Mercury Prize-Nominated 'Every Bad' Is a Wonderful Epistemological Nightmare

With Every Bad, Porridge Radio seduce us with the vulnerability and existential confusion of Dana Margolin's deathly beautiful lyricism interweaved with alluring pop melodies.


​​Beyoncé's 'Black Is King' Builds Identity From Afrofuturism

Beyoncé's Black Is King's reliance on Afrofuturism recuperates the film from Disney's clutches while reclaiming Black excellence.

Reading Pandemics

Colonial Pandemics and Indigenous Futurism in Louise Erdrich and Gerald Vizenor

From a non-Native perspective, COVID-19 may be experienced as an unexpected and unprecedented catastrophe. Yet from a Native perspective, this current catastrophe links to a longer history that is synonymous with European colonization.


John Fullbright Salutes Leon Russell with "If the Shoe Fits" (premiere + interview)

John Fullbright and other Tulsa musicians decamped to Leon Russell's defunct studio for a four-day session that's a tribute to Dwight Twilley, Hoyt Axton, the Gap Band and more. Hear Fullbright's take on Russell's "If The Shoe Fits".

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.