By SCOTT WEISSER email@example.com
---- — Looking for a night on the town, Leonard Cohen? Look up Amanda Shires.
According to Shires’ “A Song for Leonard Cohen,” she’d like to buy you a drink “and then more, and then five.” She’d just listen while you talk, and offers that the two of you could “compare mythologies.”
Shires has yet to hear back from Cohen about the musical tribute. Still, a complimentary copy of the tune is all his.
Shires played a September gig in Nashville on what happened to be Cohen’s birthday, and the song was part of her set. One of Cohen’s backup singers was at the show, and Shires gave her a copy of the “Down Fell the Doves” album that contains “Cohen.”
“I don’t know if he ever got it,” Shires said during a recent phone interview with The Goshen News. She speculates that if he did, Cohen probably used it as a coaster.
That’s cheeky and overly modest. “Doves” is a fine slice of Americana that’s garnering critical accolades. Shires is touring behind the album now, with a Friday stop scheduled at Ignition Music Garage in downtown Goshen.
Lyrically, “Doves” runs the emotional gamut. There are songs about hopeful love (“Stay”), exuberant love (“Wasted and Rolling”), love gone wrong (take your pick), lives gone wrong (“Monsters are men that the devil gets in,” according to “Deep Dark Below”) and suicide (“Box Cutters”).
Shires didn’t take offense to a reporter’s suggestion that chunk of the album is, quote, kind of a downer.
“I’m for it,” she said of the description. “I like it. I prefer it. Townes Van Zandt said you could play the blues or you could play ‘Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah’. And I definitely don’t feel like writing when I’m elated or on top of the world.”
Shires’ life circa 2011 and ‘12 is reflected in “Doves,” released last year. She was going through the break-up of a longtime relationship. A fiddle she’d played for 15 years fell victim to an onstage mishap — “smushed,” according to Shires. Then she broke her finger in three places. The wounded digit still has pins in it.
“Kind of a low point in my life, but I hear that trouble comes in threes,” Shires said. “Then it came to be true.”
Then she started hanging out with singer/songwriter/guitarist Jason Isbell, fell in love and got married.
“It’s been kind of a whirlwind, I guess,” Shires said of her recent history. Such is the cyclical nature of life’s lows and highs.
“That really is kind of true: Hang on a little longer, and it will come back around,” she said.
Shires has vocal, violin and ukulele duty on “Doves,” with Isbell handling the bulk of the guitar work.
“It was easy working with him,” she said. “All I had to say was, ‘Get weirder. Get wilder.’”
Isbell, he of the solo career as well as Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit and formerly of Drive-By Truckers, released the well-received “Southeastern” album last year. Shires performed on that album, too.
Shires got her start as a fiddle player courtesy of a visit to a pawn shop with her dad when she was around 10 years old. Shires spotted a violin, and her father said he’d get it for her if she learned how to play it.
“I was not a prodigy,” Shires said. “I went out into the yard and broke all the strings and had to wait and get lessons and all that kind of stuff.”
That kind of stuff paid off. Shires went on to perform with the notable Texas Playboys. Further along, she was named Texas Music magazine’s 2011 Artist of the Year. More recently, “Down Fell the Doves” earned a three-and-a-half star review in Rolling Stone, and The Associated Press included “Doves” in its list of overlooked albums of 2013.
“That was sweet of them to write that,” Shires said of the AP, adding with a laugh, “...It could have been even more overlooked if they hadn’t written that.”
If you want to go
Amanda Shires is scheduled to perform Friday at Ignition Music Garage, 120 E. Washington St., Goshen. Showtime is 7:30 p.m. For ticket and other information, visit the website ignitionmusic.net or call 574-971-8282.