A singer with murder opening lines has her crap!: “I’m perfectly informed on what the night’s made of/I’m comin’ with you like a hawk for the dove.” Evocative, well-stressed, and horny, “Hawk for the Dove” is the kind of song Amanda Shires writes all the time, whether for herself or for her country, the Highwomen. The scruffier, The rangy approach of her seventh album Take It Like a Man complements the Texan’s flexible burrito style, plus the fiddle she has lavished on everyone from husband Jason Isbell’s 400 Unit to the late John Prine’s final recordings. Needy but not apt to grovel, willing to misbehave as long as they keep their cool, Shires’ characters exemplify the healthy tensions in country music.
Take It Like a Man dwells in the space between grand pop balladry and Memphis soul. Shires settles into a whispery talk-sing reminiscent of Stevie Nicks; why belt when she has room for an Isbell solo of characteristic pungency? His rhythm licks and twangy embellishments on “Stupid Love” and “Bad Behavior” respectively, demonstrate the meticulousness of a player who practised hours a day during the peak of the pandemic. Multi-instrumentalist and producer Lawrence Rothman adds solid contributions to piano and guitar, but the best is keyboardist Peter Levin, who (many moments) Locks in with drummer Julian Dorio on “Fault Lines” for the easiest of grooves.
On first listen Take It Like a Man may not offer material comparable to My Piece of Land’s “The Way It Dimmed” To the Sunset “Wasn’t I Paying Attention” or “If She Ever Leaves Me” the Shires-Isbell-Chris Tomkins manifesto chanted by Highwoman Brandi Carlisle, and it positions among the decade’s greatest breaking illustrations of same-sex grief, but Shires marries latch and story with fresh encouragement. Blissful with a mushy melody, “Bad Behavior” has Shires, sight aroll and snicker afixed, the greatness of hookups. “Maybe it’s just nature/Maybe I like strangers” deals while Brittney Spencer and Maren Morris insert “ya, bitch!” on Recovery. Relaxing her urges to replenish her fantasy is an essential component of Shires ‘self-definition. She and Levin are now at their best on “Empty Cups” a mourn for connection wherein she failed “to keep the novelty from wearing off.” just a little bit “Everything Has Its Time” a co-write with friend Highwoman Natalie Hemby, deals with the repetition truisms that the rest of Take It Like a Man ignores.
An monotone combination often creates shifting and the playing noise as though they’re performing at the bottom of the well — a denser combination would pull such stories of desire and surrender in brighter hues. Rothman has the right intuition as a maker: They highlight the Shire’s huge tone. She And her group are also more amiable “Here He Comes” a witty, curvy upbeat seduce-a-rama about bedsheets. A further mystery. It’s hard to write a good drama; Compositional humor is a work of art. Faith looks easy.