Amanda Shires at the Magnolia

Amanda Shires at the Magnolia in Fort Worth
Photo by Chuck Cox
Rattle and Hum Sports

By Chuck Cox

Special Contributor

I have told just about anybody who will listen I firmly believe Jason Isbell‘s Southeastern was not only the best album of last year but it also deserves to be mentioned among some of the all-time greats.

It’s that good.

And while I have worn out my iPod listening to that magnificent work, I knew pretty much nothing about Amanda Shires and her music. I amended that on Tuesday night when I went to see Shires, who is Isbell’s wife, at Fort Worth’s Magnolia Motor Lounge.

Shires, who hails from Lubbock and also grew up in Mineral Wells, told the crowd how thrilled she is to always come back to Texas. From the opening notes of “The Garden Song (What a Mess),” it was obvious she meant it.

Shires spent the next 70 minutes playing songs, telling entertaining stories and basically having a ball in Cowtown with her two-piece band backing her. One of her anecdotes about touring with Todd Snider and shopping for patio furniture with him and Walmart was particularly entertaining.

The thing I liked the most about Shires was her incredible versatility in her songs and the way she performed them. One minute she would be singing about a Siberian tiger claw on “Bulletproof” and the next she was singing about taking on another form on the stellar “Look Like a Bird.”

In addition to singing, she also played great fiddle with both a bow and her fingers on songs later in the set. About the only thing that would have made the show better would have been if she’d played a bit longer. I will definitely go see her again.

As an added bonus, opening act Ben Danaher was also fantastic. Danaher, another native Texan, played for about 40 minutes with only a microphone and an acoustic guitar. Danaher had a great voice and songs to go along with it.

There’s always something really cool about discovering music for the first time in a live setting. It really does add something to it, for me. I would encourage you to give an artist whose music you don’t know a shot live.

Photo album.