Posts Tagged ‘Amanda Shires’

some gig last night, wasn’t it? Magic evening at The Greystones with Amanda Shires and Big Convoy. Thanks to them and all who came along. We certainly enjoyed that a lot.

We’ll be back at The Greystones on Tuesday May 27th when we’re joined by Rachel Ries, The Listeners and Ian Bramall. You can find a full preview of that show here.

Last night’s openers Big Convoy return to WagonWheel Presents… in full band form at Shakespares on Saturday May 31st when they launch their new record The First World Problems Of Big Convoy. Full details for that one are here.

We hope to see you again soon.

WWP 21.05.14

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in the Bard’s Bar last night. Big thanks to James Apollo, Daniel Whitehouse, Paul Littlewood and all who came along to listen to them at Shakespeares.

That’s our April shows all wrapped up. Next we return to The Greystones on Wednesday May 21st when we welcome back Amanda Shires. Support comes in the form of an acoustic set from Mat & John of Big Convoy. The following week on Tuesday May 27th we’ll be joined by Rachel Ries, The Listeners and Ian Bramall. You can find full previews for both of these shows here.

We’ll be back at Shakespeares on Saturday May 31st. It’s a swift return for Big Convoy who will be in full band format to launch their brand new mini album The First World Problems Of Big Convoy.Their guests for the evening will be The Clench and Stewis Olfo. Full details will be on out Gigs page in the next few days. Maybe we’ll see you there.

WWP 26.04.14

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wait over three weeks for our first show this month, but it was certainly more than worth it. We enjoyed a fantastic evening of live music at The Greystones last night in the company of the Kelley McRae duo, David J. Roch and his find band plus Richard Kitson. Thanks to them and those who came and listened, and you if your name’s Josh Harty too.

WagonWheel Presents… returns to The Backroom on Wednesday May 21st when we’ll be joined by Amanda Shires. Support comes in the form of an acoustic set from Big Convoy. You can find the full details for this show here.

We have more to come before then though. This Saturday April 26th we’re back at Shakespeares for what promises to be another special night too. James Apollo returns to Sheffield for the first time in over two years and there’ll be support from Daniel Whitehouse and Paul Littlewood. You can read all about this one here. We hope you can join us then.

WWP 22.04.14

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On Wednesday May 21st, Amanda Shires returns to WagonWheel Presents… at The Greystones. Back in the UK to promote latest album Down Fell The Doves, Amanda Shires is someone you simply can’t ignore. She has toured here with Rod Picott in the past but Amanda, voted Texas ‘Artist of the Year’ in 2011, now headlines tours in her own right and, boy, does she put on a show. Support comes in the form of an acoustic set from Big Convoy. Advance tickets priced at £9 are available from http://www.wegottickets.com/event/253084 or entry on the night will be £11. Doors open 7.30pm for an 8pm start.



Amanda Shires

Just in case the title alone wasn’t a dead give away, Amanda Shires’ Down Fell the Doves is not a record for the faint of heart, faith or spirit. Not that anyone who heard her last album would have expected such. Carrying Lighting, the critically acclaimed 2011 breakthrough that put Shires on the map as one of Americana music’s most arresting new voices (and Texas Music magazine’s 2011 Artist of the Year), was a kudzu-tangled web of frayed heartstrings and combustible desire that revealed the one-time “little fiddle player from Lubbock” to be a grown woman unafraid to “get wrecked in love” and dish out the same with keen poetic insight and unnervingly mature, femme-fatale conviction. But as striking as Lightning was, Down Fell the Doves (Shires’ debut for Lightning Rod Records) is where the gloves really come off.

“There’s a lot of destruction on this record,” says Shires, the observation coming a thoughtful pause after her somewhat casual dismissal of the album’s “Box Cutters” — a disturbingly beautiful suicidal daydream — as just being “a little bit of dark humour.”

“I wrote that one in a haze of delirious exhaustion,” she says of the song that imagines, amongst other possible exit strategies, the sweet surrender of “a rose-petaled, eyes-closed collapse” in a warm blood bath.

Maybe you just had to be there.

“I don’t know,” Shires concedes with a disarming, self-effacing chuckle, her lilting West Texas drawl as yet unbowed by years of living in Nashville and nonstop touring. “I always hate giving things away, because I like it when people can hear a song and make their own stories. But I believe in that old saying, ‘What happens in the dark comes to light.’ In order to create something, you’ve got to destroy something: You can’t have good without bad, you can’t have life without death or growth without decay. And with everything that happens, you’re learning something; I think that in this record I realized how much of learning and life experience is relearning. And there’s beauty in that. So although there’s a lot of destruction and things falling apart on the album, there’s also rebuilding going on. I think even in the darkest material there’s an inkling of hope.”

She addresses that theme directly in arguably the album’s most gorgeously bittersweet track, “The Drop and Lift.” Elsewhere, it’s left to the listener to gleam whatever hope one can from the likes of “Box Cutters” and “Deep Dark Below” — a sombre meditation on the nature of evil (“Monsters are men that the devil gets in … it’s usually the weak ones he finds”). Ditto the equally unsettling, relationship-haunting demons stirred in “Devastate” and “If I” (the latter of which asks, with chilling frankness, “If I were to break a promise that I made … would you really want me to come clean?”). In the album-closing “The Garden (What A Mess),” a striking still life of an ill-fated love gone to seed, the titular doves drop “gray-eyed and flightless” like a hard rain of fallen angels, littering the ground like spoiled fruit and jagged shards of broken heart and innocence.

Juxtaposing that at times overwhelmingly grim emotional terrain, though, are songs that deliver just enough light to keep the shadows themselves on edge. Noting that “all of the songs are reflective of what I’ve been doing the last two years,” Shires — who was married in early 2013 to fellow singer-songwriter Jason Isbell (with none other than Todd Snider conducting the nuptials) — coos unashamedly when asked about the tender-hearted “Stay.” “Oh, that’s a cute one,” she gushes playfully. “Pretty sappy, huh?” And then there’s the flirty but reverent “A Song for Leonard Cohen,” in which she fantasizes about “comparing mythologies” with her favorite songwriter over a drink or 12.

“I wrote it as an exercise on his birthday,” says Shires, who has a verse from Cohen’s “Hallelujah” tattooed on her forearm. “But I did not write it in hopes that he would hear it, In fact, if I had thought there’d ever be a chance in hell of him actually hearing it, I never would have written it, because that would be mortifying. But I admire and respect him so much, and that would be my dream encounter with him. Dreaming is a safe way to have fun.”

Elsewhere on Down Fell the Doves, Shires dreams of being not only “careless, weightless and free,” but blessed/cursed with the ability to “see through everything” (“Look Like a Bird”) and, just for kicks, impervious to bullets, hatchets, hand grenades and “all the ways that words cut through/against promises breaking into open wounds” (“Bulletproof.”)

“Wouldn’t that be cool?” she asks. “I was playing a show in Tampa, and this guy named Tiger Bill showed up to the merch table with this bag with tufts of hair and claws and stuff in it — including this Siberian tiger claw. And I was like, ‘Well thank you for this bag of crazy parts,’ because I don’t know — with gifts, it’s rude not to be gracious, right? But he said that he took care of animals and no tigers were hurt — they shed their claws. And then he went, ‘Seriously, you have to hang onto the tiger claw. They say in China that they make you invincible.’”

She wrote the song the following day — and still keeps said tiger claw handy … just in case. “But I don’t need anybody testing it out or anything,” she says.

When it came time to capture magic in the studio, though, the only good luck totems Shires relied upon were her trusty fiddle (and ukulele) and well over half a lifetime’s worth of firsthand playing and recording experience — augmented by the decades more brought by guitarist Isbell, bassist Jimbo Hart, drummer Chad Gamble and producer Andy LeMaster (Bright Eyes, R.E.M.). The album was recorded at LeMaster’s Chase Park Transduction studio in Athens, Ga.

“I like a lot of the records Andy’s worked on, which is how we met,” Shires says. “And Chad and Jimbo are both from Jason’s band, so it was mostly a group of people that I had already developed a rapport with. But this was the first record I’ve made where I really let the producer ultimately make the call of how things were going to go. I brought demos in — which was another first for me — but I just left a lot of stuff up to Andy, which worked well because we had a lot of the same ideas.”

Though not without its share of mood-enhancing embellishments, like the horns on “Stay” arranged by Shires and trombonist Chad Fisher, the sonic landscape of Down Fell the Doves is as haunted and provocative as Shires’ lyrics and melodies. Not to mention as rich with compelling contrasts, with the scrape and howl of Isbell’s guitars offsetting and perfectly complementing the delicate “drop and lift” of Shires’ quavering vibrato and almost supernaturally expressive violin — an instrument that, just like the devil’s in “Deep Dark Below,” “sounds like your deepest desire, lonely and bruised getting over being used.”

“It’s a lonesome instrument,” marvels Shires, who picked up her first violin at age 10, played Western swing music all through her teens (with the legendary Texas Playboys, no less) and continues to find new and interesting sounds on the versatile instrument that surprise even her. “I like the ways you can make it sound like wind, or fire, or … like wild. And I like that it can also be pretty.

“But that’s not me,” she hastens to add with characteristic humility. “That’s the fiddle, because they’ve got their own minds. I just follow mine around and make sure it stays in one piece.”

Shires is a damn talented and idiosyncratic song-writer…She is a fiddling maestro. At times her energetic, jittery vocals and eccentric lyrical subjects mark her out as a young female heir to the godfather of strange, Mr. Tom Waits. In her more conventional moments Shires sounds like the weird young niece of Dolly Parton.” Americana UK

“Languid and elegant …. marvellous songwriting” Daily Telegraph




Big Convoy

From the ashes of ‘Mat Wale & The Rackets’ and ‘Whiskey Cove’ comes Big Convoy, an alt. Country band five years in the making. Comprised of singer/ songwriters John Bachelor and Mat Wale and an all-star rhythm section courtesy of Thom ‘T-Bone’ Gill and Toby Evans.

If you would have walked into ‘The Green Room’ anytime in 2007, you could have found any number of these people playing songs and partying harder than any jobbing unsigned musicians had a right to. In 2012, with a lot of water under the bridge and whole lot of other stuff too, they finally come good on promises made and are in a band together, a year that also saw them release their self titled debut EP which was followed up with 2013′s “Life Is Easy When You Know How”.

Tonight John & Mat perform an acoustic set.



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that was a rather wonderful way to round off our run of March shows at The Greystones. Fabulous gig from The Deadly Gentlemen last night, not forgetting The Payroll Union and Dave Sleney who got the night off to a great start. Thanks to everybody that came out.

We still have more to come this week though. On Friday night (March 30th) it’s the first of our new run of shows at Shakespeares where we’ll be hosting a night on the last Friday of each month. We kick off with In Fear Of Olive (launching new EP Saluting Magpies), The Clench and Roaming Son. All the details can be found here. The evening will also mark our 150th show.

Our next show at The Greystones is on April 21st when we’re joined by Amanda Shires, Garron Frith and Mat Wale. See here for details of how you could win a pair of tickets for this show and a copy of Amanda’s latest CD.

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Amanda Shires heads to the UK for her first headline tour next month, including a WagonWheel Presents… show at The Greystones on Saturday April 21st.  Click here to read the gig preview.

We have a copy of Amanda’s latest record Carrying Lightning to give away to one lucky winner, who’ll also receive a pair of tickets to the Sheffield show. To enter just answer the following question:

  • With whom did Amanda record the 2009 duo album Sew Your Heart With Wires?

E-mail your answer to us at wagonwheelmedia@hotmail.co.uk before April 7th. The winner will be selected at random from all entries received at that date.

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On Saturday April 21st, WagonWheel Presents… welcomes Amanda Shires back to Sheffield as she undertakes her first UK headline tour. Amanda comes to The Greystones to promote her 2011 album Carrying Lightning that saw her named Texas Music Magazine’s Artist Of The Year. Previously with us when touring with duo partner Rod Picott, another great night is in store. Support comes from a solo outing for Mat Wale as he launches his latest EP. Advance tickets priced at £8 are available from http://www.wegottickets.com/event/136180 or entry on the night will be £10. Doors open 7.30pm for an 8pm start.


“Let’s not give away what all the songs are about,” requests Amanda Shires via email — shortly after an hour-long interview discussing exactly that. “I think I prefer for the listener to decide for themselves what stuff means, because I always hate it when I think a song is about a horse, and then it turns out to be about a damn trip to France …”

And so, by artist request, there will be no handy track-by-track cheat sheet for Shires’ new Carrying Lightning. But if you really can’t deduce what the songs are all about on your own, then consider yourself equally blessed and cursed, because odds are you’ve never been knocked on your ass by the wrecking ball of human desire — the kind so lovingly bottled by the young Texas songwriter in the album-opening “Swimmer, Dreams Don’t Keep”.

That same charge of romantic/erotic tension courses throughout the entire album, which sways from innocent daydream (“Swimmer”) to restless longing (“Love Be a Bird”) to explosive lust (“Shake the Walls”) to blissful contentment (“Sloe Gin”) and, finally, back to wistful fantasy (“Lovesick I Remain”). The specific, behind-the-scenes details — such as who or what inspired each particular song, or to what extent each stems from Shires’ own life vs. her sheer imagination — need not be divulged or even probed, because, as the mysterious little messenger in “Ghost Bird,” “all feathers and a heartbeat,” puts it best, “Baby, we’re all running from the same things: broken hearts, broken homes, the tired and the loneliness …”

“I guess the theme of the record as a whole is just, ‘get wrecked in love — and be loved,” says Shires. “Or, to steal a quote from Sylvia Plath: ‘Wear your heart on your skin in this life.’ That’s my platform.”

The quote may be borrowed, and the emotional terrain of the songs universally relatable, but Shires’ voice is distinctly her own. Her Texas twang and fetching vibrato (“less goat, more note!” she teases herself with a laugh) can dance playfully around a melody or haunt a line like a mournful ghost, and she deftly employs her fiddle/violin, ukulele and even whistling skills to similar effect. The resulting sound is a beautiful but woozily surrealistic swoon — as well befits an artist who cites Leonard Cohen and alt-country dark horse Richard Buckner as two of her biggest musical influences. Or, as a review in Americana UK once observed: “At times, her energetic, jittery vocals and eccentric lyrical subjects mark her out as a young female heir to the godfather of strange, Tom Waits. In her more conventional moments, Shires sounds like the weird young niece of Dolly Parton.”

In fact, Shires is just a down-to-earth, self-effacing West Texas gal currently residing in Nashville, working her tail off trying to find her niche in the music industry as an independent artist. In the recent Hollywood movie Country Strong, she played the fiddle player in the band backing Gwyneth Paltrow’s fictional country superstar. In real life, Shires runs with a decidedly more left-of-mainstream-type crowd, including Jason Isbell (she sings and plays fiddle on the former Drive-By Trucker’s latest, Here We Rest) and Justin Townes Earle (she’s the lovely model gracing the cover of his 2008 debut, The Good Life). She also maintains strong ties to the Lone Star State, recording and occasionally performing with the Lubbock band Thrift Store Cowboys (which she joined while still in college) and sometimes even teaching fiddle at Texas Playboys’ singer Tommy Allsup’s summer music camp. She was only 15 the first time she played onstage with the Playboys (the Western swing band made famous by the late Bob Wills) — a mere five years after she coerced her father into buying her first fiddle, a lime-green Chinese instrument from a pawn shop in dusty downtown Mineral Wells, Texas.

In 2005, while still a regular member of the Thrift Store Cowboys, Shires released her solo debut, a mostly instrumental showcase for her traditional fiddle chops called Being Brave. But the fertile Texas music scene was overripe with side-person work for the talented young player and backup singer — so much so that Shires feared sliding into a complacency that, left unchecked, threatened to stunt her growth as a songwriter. So she relocated to Nashville — “to get uncomfortable and make myself grow some guts,” as she put it once — and dived headlong into the process of writing and recording the first two albums to really put her on the roots-music map: 2008’s Sew Your Heart with Wires, a collection of duets co-written and recorded with singer-songwriter Rod Picott; and what Shires calls her “true” solo debut, 2009’s West Cross Timbers. Both were met with enthusiastic reviews and radio support, with the former being voted the fourth best debut album of 2008 by FAR (Freeform American Roots) Chart reporters and the later reaching No. 21 on the Americana Music Association Chart. The Gibson Guitar company featured Shires on their website as one of 2009’s breakout artists, and No Depression called West Cross Timbers one of the 50 best releases of the year.

Shires was eager to get right back into the studio, but a busy touring schedule — averaging 120-160 dates a year, including at least one or two annual trips to Europe — necessitated that the follow-up to West Cross Timbers, be recorded piecemeal. “We did it over the course of 16 months in multiple sessions, just coming back and forth home to Nashville between tours,” she says of Carrying Lightning, which she co-produced with Picott and David Henry at Henry’s True Tone Studios. Fortunately, although it was hard to find time to lay down tracks, writer’s block was never an issue for her.

“Some people only write when they’re at home, but I just write, whenever or however I can,” Shires says. “We ended up recording 20-something songs for the album, and the hardest part was trying to decide which ones to use. But having the whole process take so long is what ultimately helped give the record its shape and focus. I was really able to think about which songs fit together the best, as opposed to just, ‘I’m going into the studio to make a record, and in two weeks I’ll be done.’ I had a lot of time to sleep on this one.”

In fact, even now that the record’s mastered, pressed and ready for release, Shires still isn’t quite finished with it. Taking full advantage of the DIY promotional opportunities afforded by the age of social media, she plans to film videos for every song on the album, with “When You Need a Train It Never Comes” and “Lovesick I Remain” already uploaded to YouTube and more on the way. “We just shot one for ‘Shake the Walls’ today, and ‘Ghost Bird’ will be next,” she says. “I want ‘Ghost Bird’ to be animated.”

What’s more, she’s still haunted by some of the songs that didn’t make the Carrying Lightning cut — if only because they didn’t quite fit the theme of the rest of the record. Some of these she hopes to release before year’s end as a separate EP.

“They were just too dark and would have seemed too random, I guess,” she says of the orphan tunes. How dark? One of them apparently involved a girl getting her skin sliced off.

“Actually, that one was kind of a love song,” she admits with a sheepish chuckle. “Maybe I should have left that one on the record!”

“Godfather” Waits would be proud.

Shires is a damn talented and idiosyncratic song-writer…She is a fiddling maestro. At times her energetic, jittery vocals and eccentric lyrical subjects mark her out as a young female heir to the godfather of strange, Mr. Tom Waits. In her more conventional moments Shires sounds like the weird young niece of Dolly Parton.” Americana UK


***MAT WALE***

Mat Wale has been writing, producing and recording with various of his own band projects since 2004. As well as releasing a string of albums and EPs he also produced the ‘Medieval Death Folk’ EP for Mexican Kids At Home which remains to this day their definitive work. In 2008 he toured the US and UK with experimental indie band ‘avanGaad’. In 2009 he provided the soundtrack for Welsh indie film ‘Big Font, Large Spacing’.

Mat formed ‘The Rackets’ in late 2006. The band played neally 200 shows and recorded 4 EP’s together until their demise in late 2009.

Though the band have recently reformed for occasional shows, Mat is currently performing solo shows showcasing his country tinged songs of love and heartbreak as he promotes his latest EP.


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