Saturday, 21 April 2012

Amanda Shires The Musician Leicester Thursday 19th April 2012

By its nature, roots music is mainly going to appeal to a mature listener who is prepared to move out of the present and delve into a period of time where the influence of today’s technology didn’t exist. This is often reflected in the demographical spread of a majority of the audience who frequent gigs under the country, roots and Americana banner in this country. However it is refreshing that a lot of this music exported from the North American continent is being produced by a younger generation that is critical to it continuing to flourish in the future. Texas born, fiddle playing, vocalist Amanda Shires, who has just reached the ripe old age of thirty, is one such artist who continues to grow her reputation at home and is committed to spreading the word overseas. She has been a frequent visitor to the UK over the last few years including an appearance at the Maverick Festival in 2010 and on this evening was bringing her current eighteen date tour to the Musician Pub in Leicester.

 Amanda’s long time musical companion, singer-songwriter and guitarist Rod Picott, was accompanying her again on this tour with the trio completed by lap steel player, Tim Pertil. As a combination, they produced a tight sound allowing for the graceful interludes of Amanda’s fiddle playing and always complementing her distinctive and, occasionally, quirky vocals. Whilst her singing voice was not the traditional drawl you would expect from somebody raised in Texas, living in Tennessee and being a fine exponent of country music, it had an impressive range and contributed to an impulsive listening experience.

Most of their set was dedicated to the two major studio albums that Amanda has recorded and it was a track from her most recent release ‘Carrying Lightning’ that opened the show in ‘When You Need a Train It Never Comes’. Although this album has been available in the UK for a while, it is only now getting reviews in the industry press. During this evening’s show amongst those tracks from it being showcased was the album opener ‘Swimmer’, the Barbara Keith song ‘Detroit or Buffalo’ and ‘Love Be a Bird’. She didn’t forget her previous album ‘West Cross Timbers’ with impressive performances of ‘Angels and Acrobats’ written by co-performer Rod Picott, ‘Rings and Chains’ and ultimately closed the show with the autobiographical track ‘Mineral Wells’. Prior to that she had increased the tempo of the show by playing an upbeat Texas fiddle tune called ‘Set You House in Order’.

With such a talented sidekick as Rod Picott, Amanda was always going to stand aside and let him entertain the audience with his traditional blue collar singer-songwriter numbers. He initially chose two songs from his recent album titled ‘Welding Burns’ with the title track and one called ‘ Rust Belt Fields’ for his short set and he took centre stage a little later with the song ‘Broke Down’, a popular number covered by his colleague Slaid Cleaves on his many visits to the UK. The contrasting styles of Rod and Amanda blended well to make the evening a memorable one.

It was a pity the concert wasn’t better attended but the Musician probably has a greater popularity with the rockier sounds of the americana movement and even though they attempted to make the venue more intimate with candlelit tables, it still lacked a little atmosphere for this type of show. It was good that the Musician had booked the Worcester based duo, Wooden Horse, to open the show and they showed that good quality country/roots/americana music is being made in the UK as well. This, in combination with the likes of Amanda Shires visiting these shores, bodes well for the future health of this minority music genre in the UK.

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