Friday, September 29, 2017

Amanda Shires Compares Mythologies with Leonard Cohen

I went to a Jason Isbell show a couple of weeks ago, and walked out feeling like hell. No doubt about it, Jason is a great songwriter, but the show was so unrelievedly bleak that I found myself wishing I'd stayed home and watched "Seinfeld" reruns instead. And I was doubly disappointed that Isbell's wife and regular bandmate, Amanda Shires, wasn't there for the show. He said she had a gig of her own back in Nashville. Come to think of it, that's where I wish I was. Amanda's violin and vocals are like little rays of light sneaking between the blinds into the dark rooms of Jason's songs. But more than that, she's an accomplished singer-songwriter in her own right. Her work is full of that light, making even her most bittersweet songs something to lift your spirit.

A great and famous man once said, "There is a crack in everything/That's how the light gets in." Amanda shares my admiration for this great man; indeed, she wrote a song for him called "A Song For Leonard Cohen":
I wish that I could buy you a drink
And then more and then five
I'd get you drunk and I'd get me outgoing
All week or just this one night...
We'd compare mythologies*
And toast those friends that never believed
That our voices ever had much to offer
And then, maybe, we would go for a walk
And I'd just listen while you talk...
Amanda has a tattoo of lyrics from Leonard's "Take This Waltz" on her back.

At her May 15, 2014 show at St. Bonaventure's Parish Hall, in Bristol, England, she followed "A Song For Leonard Cohen" with a cover of the master's "I'm Your Man." Both tracks from the show are below.** Isbell plays guitar on the tracks, and if you listen real close I swear you can hear him smiling--something I don't think he did the whole night I saw him play. I bet Amanda makes you smile too.

A Song For Leonard Cohen

I'm Your Man

*"Let Us Compare Mythologies" was the title of Leonard Cohen's first book of poetry, published in 1956, when he was 21.

**I'm sorry to say I can't find the name of the taper, but it's a lovely recording, so thank you, whoever you are.

Here are videos of both songs, for those who don't like to download MP3s: