Meandering down to Jackson Social, our attention is caught by ‘You Were Always On My Mind’, sung by the glorious Amanda Shires, accompanied by bright keys. We’re hooked on the final notes of ‘tell me’, her powerful lungs holding her vibrato.
The crowd has only been somewhat depleted by the rain, testament to her performance, and a lady next to me roars her excitement when Amanda introduces her other band, ‘The Highwomen’, an American country music supergroup that also includes Brandi Carlile, Natalie Hemby, and Maren Morris. She launches into the song ‘Highwomen’ and fans are singing along, lost in the festival atmosphere.
Amanda has an excellent connection to the audience; she’s talented, smart, and funny, and introduces all of her musical counterparts with care, pretending to give out the guitarist’s phone number (Zack) to all and any. We’re gifted with an intimate performance between her and Zack, her vocals mingling with his guitar in the first verse, before the band jump in.
‘Thank you so much for listening and, you know…standing’ she says, chatting between each song. And then she’s picking up a fiddle and finger picking a compelling, disjointed melody, belying her skill that filters to the surface later through her fingers. As the band join her for ‘Crowded Table’, the drama builds; the gravelly tones of the song stretching our nerves for this rocky, edgy set finish. She tells the band to ‘go for a little bit more’ and they build to a cacophony of sound; layers of guitars, fiddle and drums creating dissonance around careful spaces in the music, the fiddle and guitar calling and answering over repetitive and persistent undertones. The audience cheer wildly as they end, and with a quick flourish, they leave the stage. We clap until they’re out of sight, and then finally allow ourselves to seek some cover from the wet.