“Y’all getting engaged?” Amanda shires asked a couple in the front row of her State Room show on Wednesday night. Apparently the couple had talked through the entire three minutes of “When You Need a Train It Never Comes,” and the singer-songwriter made her dissatisfaction clear while remaining saccharine-sweet. “That was my best song,” she admonished. “It’s all shit from here.”
And her charm continued through the night, a tiny little thing on the stage, dressed in black with knee high boots, “It’s hard to stand up here in front of people in a skirt,” she told the crowd of their chatter. Someone from the crowd shouted back, “It looks good!” And without skipping a beat, she said in a lilting southern drawl with just a hint of a Holly Hunter-esque lisp, “I know it does!” She tried to convince the couple, who kept talking, to make their relationship official. “Y’all are holding hands,” she pointed out, “What’s that mean in Utah?”
It’s possible that poor Buttons and Belinda stuck out from the crowd because the rest of us were in rapt attention from the moment Shires walked out onstage, clutching her fiddle—but not playing it—to sing her opening song, “You Are My Home” acapella. After that, her band joined her onstage for a joyous hour and a half of Shires playing fiddle and guitar and her stellar voice—a perfect combination of Dolly Parton when she hits a high warble, and Alison Krauss when she doesn’t.
And it was continued banter throughout the night that made this show one of the best of the year so far, a true southern storyteller, Shires walked the crowd through a story about a fellow named Tiger Bill, who inspired her song “Bulletproof” and talking about her husband and daughter at home before covering Loudon Wainwright III’s “Daughter,” all with a level of intimacy that made the room feel like a small group of friends within a few songs.
“After this, let’s all go to Karaoke,” said Shires towards the end of the show, “Why not? It’s Wednesday!”