Amanda Shires has been through a lot since her last record, 2013’s Down Fell the Doves. She got married (to Jason Isbell) and became a mother for the first time. And in the subtle beauty of her new release My Piece of Land, it shows. A more grounded Shires is quiet and introspective on songs about the hardships of being on the road, away from the ones you love, and life experiences that she’s figuring out as she goes.
Produced by Dave Cobb, My Piece of Land steers clear of any big, splashy production, in favor of more delicately balanced melodies and an emphasis on Shires’ unique singing voice and personal journal-style of songwriting. Shires has a knack for creating an intimate atmosphere through her music, like she’s sharing a secret with only you, and that is especially the feel of this album. My Piece of Land is a deeply personal look into her past and present. Her gorgeous, swooning fiddle is present as always, and her exquisite gentle harmonies with Isbell (who also contributes his stellar guitar playing) are like glimmering gems scattered throughout. You feel lucky when you catch them.
This is particularly showcased on the album’s standout stunner “Pale Fire”. A magnificent and visual ballad about the pain of making mistakes in love. “Every man I meet is perfect/Any better they’d be wrong/That way it’s never really worth it/And I can spend my days alone,” she sings, making the sadness that comes with self-preservation sound shimmering and lovely.
“Harmless” is another sparse beauty on My Piece of Land. Shires relives a hazy night of drinking in romantic, immaculate detail, her signature bewitching vocal quiver at its best. “There was a sword in my drink/Everything’s a sign if you want it to be/And you want it to be/It could have been harmless/Wanting to see/If I could get a little closer/And walk away breathing/It might have been cheating/Where exactly is the line?/Too early to admit it/I wanted you for mine,” she sings, putting you right there in the moment with her. You can almost picture the glow of a streetlight, and the smell of the bar.
“Slippin’” and “When You’re Gone” tackle the difficulty of spending time apart when you’re in a relationship, trying to maintain the trust and feel secure. In every song on My Piece of Land, Shires is a storyteller. She notices the little things and writes about them in such a way that keeps us hanging on to her every word. “Nursery Rhyme” is a whimsical ode to pregnancy and the impatient feelings that come with it. And “The Way it Dimmed” tells of a fateful night between two lovers in such vivid detail, it begins to feel like your own experience. Shires excels at pinpointing that distinct feeling of angst that comes with waiting, or feeling stuck in the in-between, and those quiet moments of unrest.