Indigo Girls

Indigo Girls

Epic Records, 1989

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Clarification: I'm not reviewing the major label debut of the Indigo Girls because of the recent controversy involving a cancellation of a concert they were supposed to play. It just so happens that I pulled this tape out of the Pierce Archives a week prior to the cancellation, and was listening to it the day the concert was cancelled. It's just a twist of fate.

The first time I ever heard Amy Ray and Emily Saliers, it was courtesy of a sampler tape from Friday Morning Quarterback, a trade publication I used to read in college radio. The first time I heard them sing "Closer To Fine," I was hooked - the harmonizing of the vocals and the interplay between the two acoustic guitars won me over.

And for the bulk of the ten songs that make up Indigo Girls, Ray and Saliers manage to bring new life into folk music, and are able to make a once-stagnating genre damned exciting.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

"Closer To Fine" is still a song that, if it hits me right, will make me cry, just on the strength of the vocals. Ray's lead vocals are the catalyst for the whole ball of wax, which is still probably the Indigo Girls' best known track. It's been almost ten years since this song first hit, and I have yet to get tired of it.

But there are even stronger performances on this album. I will never be able to hear the song "Kid Fears" without putting the guest vocal of R.E.M.'s Michael Stipe after the third verse - and frankly, the song isn't the same without him. (Stipe performed the song onstage in the Indigo Girls' video Live At The Uptown Lounge.) The other members of R.E.M. serve as Ray and Saliers's backing band on "Tried To Be True," a song which proves that the Indigo Girls could have been a successful rock band as well. (I do admit, I hated their latest rock effort, "Shame On You".)

Another well-known song from their repertoire, "Land Of Canaan," sounds special with a more rock-based backing band with it - especially because the song had been best known as strictly an acoustic bend. And why "Prince Of Darkness" never became a big hit, I don't know; Saliers takes over on the lead vocal, adding an angelic touch to a rather tough message.

So many of the graetest moments come in the harmonized songs - "Secure Yourself," "Love's Recovery," "Kid Fears" - but Ray captures the angst and the hope in the song "Blood And Fire," which features her vocals going from a surprisingly gentle whisper to a piercing roar. It's a moment that I don't think she has been able to top yet.

The quality of the music is what strikes me on Indigo Girls - it is often upbeat, with s touch of the stuggles of modern-day. Pain, but not hopelessness. This is what separates Ray and Saliers from an artist like Melissa Etheridge, whom I also really became interested in back in 1989. Etheridge's songs dealt a lot with pain, but not as much optimism; the Indigo Girls thrived on optimism, even if all the cards they held were against them.

I like this album - I like it a lot, no question about that. My autographed tape is one of the things I prize the most in this world. There is a good reason the Indigo Girls have won a few Grammy Awards for folk. Pick up Indigo Girls to find out why.

Rating: A-

User Rating: A-



© 1998 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Epic Records, and is used for informational purposes only.