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For Shires, home is where the family lies

By Brian Baker, October 2016

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Another element of her bluegrass DNA is the warbling catch in her vocal delivery that more than one reviewer has likened to Dolly Parton. Shires is flattered by the comparison, but demurs to anything but a slight similarity.

"That's a high compliment, but I don't have the range she has at all," says Shires. "I think I was born with that warble because I went to a vocal coach to try to get it out; when I heard it in playback, I sounded like a goat. I was trying to figure out how to not do that and apparently I can't not do that. There was a podcast on NPR that talked about how German and American babies cried in their own dialect, so maybe it has to do with your location. I might just say that and see if it works."

In Shires' own final analysis, she feels as though "My Piece of Land" is her most cohesive album to date, which she credits to her creative writing classes at the Sewanee School of Letters (she resumed coursework in 2011 and is in the midst of completing her thesis for "an awesome MFA in poetry" next spring), and a clearer sense of what she wants to say and how she wants to say it.

"I feel like this one's more focused than my past records," says Shires confidently. "As far as the collection goes, each piece can relate to another piece and whole thing is like little chapters. I'm proud of my work, but on some of my other records, I was operating on instinct and didn't understand some of my leaps. It's cool to go off topic but for this I'm proud of the focus and concentration rather than running away from talking about stuff that bothers me. I kind of got used to criticism and hard truths at Sewanee, like, 'That really sucks' and 'That's 10 pounds of shit in a 5-pound bag.' Sometimes people say that."

"But the record is still me, it's all hopefully an evolution and a progression and not a regression. That's all I really care about. My only goals were to get better and connect with people. That's it."

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