Strange Fire

Indigo Girls

Epic, 1987

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Sometimes, debut releases on independent labels get dwarfed by the success of a major label release. Sometimes, those indie albums are fortunate enough to find a new life when the major label picks it up.

In the case of Strange Fire, the debut effort from the folk-rock duo Indigo Girls, it’s never quite gotten the attention it deserved, even after Epic re-released it (minus two tracks from the initial release) following the success of their self-titled sophomore effort. But, in many ways, this album set the pace for what Amy Ray and Emily Saliers would do with their careers, and is a surprisingly mature and polished first effort.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

With sparse backing instrumentation, and showcasing Ray and Saliers’s harmonized vocals, the 10 tracks on this disc are just as powerful—and in some cases, even more powerful—than what would be featured on Indigo Girls just two years later. Lyrically and musically, this disc pretty much has it all.

If anything, the one weakness—and I’m using the term loosely—that the album has is the fact that there are precious few backing musicians behind the music. It’s not that Ray and Saliers are incapable of selling the songs themselves; the title track alone quashes any of those doubts. But it’s when you hear the occasional flute here or harmonica there that you understand the richness in the music that was left undiscovered.

The first version of “Land Of Canaan” is a prime example of this. Maybe it’s because I was exposed to the full band version on Indigo Girls first that I have a preference for the full instrumentation; had it been the other way around, chances are I’d have preferred this more stripped-down version. It’s not that it’s bad by any means; it just reminds me of a gem waiting to be cut and polished to perfection.

That all being said, there is a lot to celebrate on Strange Fire. Tracks like “Hey Jesus,” “Crazy Game” and “Walk Away” all would have told the listener in 1987 that Indigo Girls were a band that demanded to be reckoned with, on their terms—and the listener would be more than willing to oblige.

Much time has passed since Strange Fire was released, and several tracks in Ray and Saliers’ catalog have become well-known staples. But this album remains a diamond in the rough in their discography. Splurge a little bit; invest the 37 minutes and rediscover this disc.

Rating: A-

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