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Album Review: ‘To the Sunset’ by Amanda Shires

-Allison Dee, Roots N Blues Intern

Listening to Amanda Shires’ new album, To The Sunset, was a breath of fresh air. While her first few albums had more of a country-folk sound, Shires has transformed her style and debuted a new Americana soft-rock type in this work. While this shift is definitely bold, she pulls it off.

It never seizes to amaze me how much Shires has changed and grown over time. Not only has her sound and style changed, but also the experiences and stories that are told in her lyrics have, too. Her evolution is on full display in To the Sunset. Between Shires’ first album and her last, she has become a mother and received her MFA from Sewanee University, the impact of which is undeniable within this album.

Right off the bat, I fell in love with Shires’ first song “Parking Lot Pirouette” because of it’s strikingly different sound. It’s filled to the brim with organ sounds, as well as the electric guitar played by her Grammy-winning husband, Jason Isbell.

The album boasts 10 beautiful and unique songs, each one telling its own story. A few songs talk about wanting to escape, which, to me, shed some light on the stresses of early motherhood that she could be experiencing. Others tell tales of breakups and relationships ending with her signature relatability.

My personal favorite is “Leave it Alone.” The lyrics of this song really took me by surprise by just how true they were:

“Get to the part where the space between us closes 

Where we lean into the gold-blue sky of mornin’

With the words we can’t find like bees inside us swarmin’”

It amazes me that she can explain the feeling you have when you’re with someone that you truly care about and have feelings for. The “bees inside us swarming” reminds me of having butterflies in your stomach for someone but you just can’t tell them you like them.

It’s clear her new degree has positively benefited her songwriting ability. One of my favorite lyrics was “your eyes glitter like an eagle’s cage.” To me, an eagle is a symbol of freedom and doesn’t usually have a cage. Does that mean that her partner’s eyes don’t glitter anymore when he looks at her? We may never know, but I love a song that makes me think.

All in all, Shires’ album was an amazing artistic gem and everyone should definitely give it a listen. Or, better yet, come see her perform it live at the 2018 festival.