Guided By Voices

The object of cultish adoration for years, singer/songwriter Lucinda Williams was universally hailed as a major talent by both critics and fellow musicians, but it took quite some time for her to parlay that respect into a measure of attention from the general public. Part of the reason was her legendary perfectionism: Williams released records infrequently, often taking years to hone both the material and the recordings thereof. Yet her meticulous attention to detail and staunch adherence to her own vision were exactly what helped build her reputation. When Williams was at her best (and she often was), even her simplest songs were rich in literary detail, from her poetic imagery to her flawed, conflicted characters. Her singing voice, whose limitations she readily acknowledged, nonetheless developed into an evocative instrument that seemed entirely appropriate to her material.

In early 2014, Williams reissued her 1988 self-titled album with bonus material via funding from a Pledge Music campaign. If the crowdfunding campaign suggested Williams was moving away from the standard music business paradigm, she confirmed it by forming her own record label, Highway 20 Records, who released Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone, an ambitious two-disc set that appeared in September 2014.

Amanda Shires began her career as a teenager playing fiddle with the Texas Playboys. Since then, she’s toured and recorded with John Prine, Billy Joe Shaver, Todd Snider, Justin Townes Earle, Shovels & Rope, and most recently her husband Jason Isbell. Along the way she’s made three solo albums, each serving to document a particular period in her life while improving on the perceptive qualities of the previous record. Shires is not an entertainer. She isn’t looking to help listeners escape their everyday lives or soundtrack celebrations. She isn’t reaching for celebrity, and she isn’t concerned with cultivating a personal brand. She is an artist in the true sense of the word, meaning she creates because she has a real need for the process of creating. That is not to say that the songs on her new album, My Piece Of Land, aren’t entertaining, but that quality is a by-product. The real intention here is to relate.