Armed with a fiddle and an endlessly powerful voice, Amanda Shires is one of the Americana music community’s finest gems. An accomplished fiddler, songwriter and poet, Shires has a serious knack for exploring the world — the good and the bad stuff — with unyielding honesty and an incredible way with words.
Shires' sonic diversity is remarkable, her fiddle playing is impeccable, and she’s full of swagger that goes against the grain. Celebrate her immense talents with this list of her Top 10 songs.
“A Song for Leonard Cohen”From 'Down Fell the Doves' (2013)
This song, from 2013’s Down Fell the Doves, is a tribute to Leonard Cohen, the late singer-songwriter who Shires counts as both a hero and major influence. Taking inspiration from both Cohen’s lyricism and vocal style, Shires pays homage in a way that is so much richer than all of those questionable covers of his famous song “Hallelujah."
“Leave It Alone”From 'Leave It Alone' (2018)
Shires’ 2018 album To the Sunset is decidedly a sonic departure from the folksy, fiddle-driven tunes of her prior albums, but it’s no less worthy of acclaim. “Leave It Alone” blends her plain-spoken lyricism and breezy melodies with the electronic elements that make To the Sunset such a compelling and interesting album.
“Look Like a Bird”From 'Down Fell the Doves' (2013)
The lead track from 2013’s Down Fell the Doves, “Look Like a Bird” is a manifesto of sorts for Shires, using the “careless, weightless and free” nature of birds to explore her own worldview. "I wanna look like a bird, like I was meant to sing,” she proclaims. “I wanna look like a bird, like I know my place in the world.”
“Mineral Wells”From 'West Cross Timbers' (2009)
A native Texan, Shires says that she bought her first fiddle in a pawn shop in the sleepy town of Mineral Wells. Her song “Mineral Wells,” therefore, tells the story of her life, from being a “drink on the shelf” in 1981, to living in Lubbock, to, eventually, moving to Mineral Wells. “I ended up with two places to be from,” she sings. “The only tree with leaves in Lubbock, with roots in Mineral Wells.” With its heavy dose of nostalgia and Shires’ enchanting vocals, "Mineral Wells" is the kind of song that can remind anyone of their childhood, even if they didn’t grow up in this specific place.
“When You Need a Train It Never Comes”From 'Carrying Lightning' (2011)
From her 2011 album Carrying Lightning, "When You Need a Train It Never Comes" finds Shires somehow beautifully evoking the image of being tied to a train track — and wanting the train to actually show up and hit her. It may not be the most uplifting of tunes, but it’s an early indicator of Shires’ incredible ability to craft lyrics that are endlessly — if a little uncomfortably — relatable.
“Kudzu”From 'Carrying Lightning' (2011)
This sweet love song is named for the stunning green vine that has taken over large swaths of the state of Texas. Shires sings about finding the person you love in all parts of nature: “And it's true, all the flowers sigh, and the birds sing along your side / And you never really get it 'til it's happening to you,” she sings. “I don't know where you found that key / I thought it was lost on some surface street / This heart's been waiting, oh, waiting to start just for you.”
“Parking Lot Pirouette”From 'To the Sunset' (2018)
The lead track from Shires' 2018 album To the Sunset finds Shires coming out swinging. On “Parking Lot Pirouette,” she sheds the expectations of her typically folksy, fiddle-heavy music by taking a strong turn into the world of guitar-driven pop, and it is an absolute rockstar effort. Put this song on pop-country playlist alongside Brandi Carlile and St. Vincent.
“My Love (The Storm)”From 'My Piece of Land' (2016)
Shires’ fiddling is always spectacular, but it's especially so on “My Love (The Storm).” On this track, from 2016’s My Piece of Land, Shires makes no bones about her own power: “I am the storm at summer's end / Watch the willows mourn / Watch the branches bend,” she sings, just before offering a sage bit of wisdom: “And the wind don't know your daddy's name / And the heart will break all the plans you've made.”
“Harmless”From 'My Piece of Land' (2016)
If you weren’t already aware that Shires is a bona fide poet with a master’s degree in the subject to prove it, “Harmless” teaches that lesson with ease. This song’s evocative, colorful lyrics tell the story of someone meeting their first love at a time that isn’t exactly the best. “It could have been harmless, wanting to see,” she sings. “It might have been cheating; where exactly is the line? / Too early to admit it: I wanted you for mine.”
“Eve’s Daughter”From 'To the Sunset' (2018)
"Eve's Daughter" may be Shires’ hardest-driving tune, and it's also highly biographical, exploring her mother’s story and how it influenced her own. “My dad whisks her away to Mineral Wells, Texas — a beautiful place — and it doesn't work out,” Shires told NPR in 2018. “She's moving around and getting lots of jobs doing things like being a fishmonger and a bail bonds lady and going to school. And then also, accepting the choices she's made and then being cheerful about it.”