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Indigo Girls


Country of origin:

U.S.

Type of music generally:

In the past they have categorised themselves as "acoustic folk-rock", and also fall into the category "contemporary folk". However, their most recent album Shaming of the Sun is probably best described as "rock". They have also said that their next album will probably see them tending back towards "folk". (Sherlyn.Koo)

Folk with rock influence. (jbr@casetech.dk)

Status:

Most recent releases, One Lost Day (2015)

See also:

Indigo Girls site

Wikipedia's entry on Indigo Girls

Amy Ray's site

Comparisons:

disappear fear, The Story, Billy Pilgrim.

Covers/own material:

Mainly their own material, with a few covers. The band consists of two singer/songwriters, who rarely write collaboratively and generally take turns singing lead and harmony vocals.

General comments:

Amy Ray and Emily Saliers are both superb songwriters with distinctively different styles. Emily's songs are influenced noticeably by religion and literature, while Amy draws more from spirituality and her own passion. Emily's beautiful soprano and Amy's passionate alto, combined with their interwoven guitar work, intricate harmonies and intelligent songs combine for an stirring sound that is uniquely their own. (Sherlyn.Koo)

Indigo Girls delivers some very nice songs, both musically and with respect to the lyrics (sometimes indignant, sometimes quirky and sometimes beautiful). Their singing is pretty unusual: their voices are not pretty, in fact often aggressive, but achieve a strange kind of harmony. Great live performers, too.... (jbr@casetech.dk)

Comments about live performance:

The Indigo Girls played what I thought was the most solid set of the night, mixing up crowd singalong versions of old hits with dramatic versions of new songs I didn't know. (Lilith Fair review, neal)

The Indigo Girls were their typical cool selves and got the crowd really rocking. I don't know many of their song titles, but they definitely did "Power of Two" and "Go," which made the audience quite happy to say the least. (Lilith Fair Review, Riphug@aol.com)

Recommended first album:

Indigo Girls for contemporary folk fans, Swamp Ophelia or Rites Of Passage for ecto or pop fans. (Sherlyn.Koo)

Recordings include:


Strange Fire

Release info:

Independent release on vinyl only in 1987; re-release 1989—Epic—EK 45427 (U.S.)

Availability:

Fairly widely available in U.S.; a little harder to find but still available in other countries.

Ecto priority:

Recommended for folk fans

Group members:

Amy Ray—vocals, acoustic guitar, 12-string guitar
Emily Saliers—vocals, acoustic guitar

Guest artists:

Sandy Garfinkle—harmonica
Nita Karpf—cello
John Keane—vocals
Michelle Malone—vocals
Anne Richardson—flute
Dede Voga—mandolin

Produced by:

John Keane

Comments:

A good album but the songwriting is generally a little less mature than on later albums. Possibly my least favourite of all the Indigo Girls' albums. (Sherlyn.Koo)

I always liked the title song, but I rarely listen to the whole album. The barer, acoustic sound makes it more intimate, quieter and calmer than the later albums. (JoAnn Whetsell)


Indigo Girls

Release info:

1989—Epic—EK 45044 (U.S.); EPC 463491 2 (Australia). Also remastered and released as a gold-coloured "Collector's Edition" CD in 1994, cat. no. EK 66224.

Availability:

Readily available worldwide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended for folk fans

Group members:

Amy Ray—vocals, acoustic guitar
Emily Saliers—vocals, acoustic guitar, 12-string electric guitar, electric guitar

Guest artists:

Bill Berry (R.E.M.)—drums
Luka Bloom—vocals
Peter Buck (R.E.M.)—electric guitar
Paulinho Da Costa—percussion
Jay Dee Daugherty—drums
John Keane—bass, 12-string electric guitar, slide guitar, bass drum, shaker
Mike Mills (R.E.M.)—bass
Fiachna OBraonain (Hothouse Flowers)—tin whistle, vocals
Liam O'Maonlai (Hothouse Flowers)—bodhran, hammond organ, vocals
Peter O'Toole (Hothouse Flowers)—mandolin, vocals
Michael Stipe (R.E.M.)—vocals
Kasim Sultan—bass
John Van Tongeren—keyboards
Dede Vogt—bass
Jai Winding—piano

Produced by:

Scott Litt

Comments:

An excellent album, Indigo Girls' major-label debut was widely hailed by critics at the time of its release. With guest appearances by members of R.E.M. and Hothouse Flowers (including Michael Stipe's powerful harmony on Amy's song "Kid Fears"), this album shows Indigo Girls' versatility—songs range from Amy's gut-wrenching solo "Blood And Fire" to Emily's upbeat singalong "Closer To Fine". Highly recommended. (Sherlyn.Koo)

I took a flyer on this and was very pleasantly rewarded with a lively and challenging album. The lyrics are intriguing and the musical arrangements (acoustic guitars predominate) exhilarate. (nightwol@dircon.co.uk)


Nomads*Indians*Saints

Release info:

1990—Epic—EK 46829 (U.S.); 467308 2 (Europe)

Availability:

Readily available worldwide

Ecto priority:

Recommended for folk fans. (Sherlyn.Koo)

Group members:

Amy Ray—vocals, acoustic guitar
Emily Saliers—vocals, acoustic guitar, electric guitar

Guest artists:

Kenny Aronoff—drums, African drum, percussion
Scott Bland (ellen james society)—drums
Peter Buck (R.E.M.)—dulcimer
Mary Chapin Carpenter—vocals
Paulinho Da Costa—percussion
Jay Dee Daugherty—drums
Craig Edwards—fiddle
Peter Holsapple—accordion, keyboard
John Jennings—acoustic slide guitar, acoustic guitar, electric guitar
Jim Keltner—drums
Sara Lee—bass
Bryan Lilje (ellen james society)—bass
Michael Lorant (Big Fish Ensemble)—drums
Michelle Malone—vocals
Chris McGuire (ellen james society)—vocals, electric guitar
Gerard McHugh—vocals
Cooper Seay (ellen james society)—electric guitar
Benmont Tench—fake accordion

Produced by:

Scott Litt

Comments:

A good album, in a very similar vein to the previous, Indigo Girls (Amy has said that she felt Indigo Girls "didn't grow hardly at all" with this album). Standout tracks include Amy's "Welcome Me" and Emily's "Watershed" and "Hammer And A Nail". (Sherlyn.Koo)

Rites Of Passage

Release info:

1992—Epic—EK 48865 (U.S.); 471363 2 (Europe)

Availability:

Readily available worldwide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended for folk and ecto fans

Group members:

Amy Ray—vocals, acoustic guitar
Emily Saliers—vocals, acoustic guitar

Guest artists:

Jackson Browne—background vocals
Ronan Browne—uileann pipes, low whistles
Budgie—drums, percussion, marimba, claves
David Crosby—background vocals
Sandy Garfinkle—harmonica
Lisa Germano—fiddle
John Jennings—electric guitar, slide guitar
Sara Lee—bass
Michael Lorant—vocals
Donal Lunny—bouzouki, bodhran, mandolin
Nollaig Ni Chathasaigh—irish fiddle
Jerry Marotta—drums, percussion, piano
Martin McCarrick—cello, accordion
Edgar Meyer—bass, acoustic bass
Sue Owens—handclaps
Maggie Roche (The Roches)—vocals, piano
Terre Roche (The Roches)—vocals
Suzzy Roche (The Roches)—vocals
Cooper Seay—electric guitar
Simone Simonton—cymbals, sidestick
Talvinde Singh—percussion
Benmont Tench—organ
Jai Winding—piano

Produced by:

Peter Collins

Comments:

Rites Of Passage was possibly Indigo Girls' most ambitious and experimental album. Assembling the largest cast of support artists to date, this album marked Indigo Girls' first real departure from the "two women two guitar" sound of their earlier albums, often using full instrumentation to great effect. Rites Of Passage is a collection of wonderful songs (including Amy's astonishingly powerful rendition of Mark Knopfler's "Romeo And Juliet")—highly recommended for folk and ecto fans alike. (Sherlyn.Koo)

Slightly better than Nomads Indians Saints, but both albums are very good. (jbr@casetech.dk)


Swamp Ophelia

Release info:

1994—Epic—EK 57621 (U.S.)

Availability:

Readily available worldwide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended for folk and ecto fans

Group members:

Amy Ray—vocals, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, acoustic highstrung guitar
Emily Saliers—vocals, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, classical guitar, dobro, bouzouki

Guest artists:

Sam "Shake" Anderson—vocals
David Davidson—violin
Sheila Doyle (Big Fish Ensemble)—violin
Jan Dykes—bass
Lisa Germano—penny whistle, mandolin, violin, mandolin
Connie Grauer (Mrs. Fun)—melodica, bass synthesizer
James Hall—trumpet
Anthony Lamarchia—cello
Chuck Leavell—piano, vibrachime
Sara Lee—bass
Tony Levin—stick bass
Michael Lorant (Big Fish Ensemble)—vocals, drums
Jerry Marotta—drums, bongos, percussion, African drums, marimba
Bill Newton—chromatic harmonica
John Painter—electric guitar, baritone guitar, flugel horn, accordion
Larry Ray, Sr.—vocals
The Roches—vocals
Jane Scarpantoni—cello
Jane Siberry—vocals
Joel Sonnier—accordion
Chris Teal—violin
Danny Thompson—acoustic bass
Kristin Wilkinson—viola
Kim Zick (Mrs. Fun)—triangle, snare drums, tom toms, tympani

Produced by:

Peter Collins

Comments:

A wonderful album, possibly my favourite by the Indigo Girls. Over the years their songwriting has been getting better and better; this album contains some sublime songs, including Emily's "The Wood Song" and "Mystery", and Amy's "Dead Man's Hill". This album also marks their first step away from the acoustic sound, with their first electric-guitar-based song, Amy's "Touch Me Fall". I highly recommend this album to any folk or ecto fan. (Sherlyn.Koo)

Perhaps the songs here don't quite measure up to the very best of Rites of Passage but the quality of this collection is much more consistently high and the singing and production are superb. The vocal harmonies and acoustic sound are immediately appealing—the intense and deeply personal lyrics may take more repeated exposure to make their mark. (nightwol@dircon.co.uk)

An excellent effort from them. I regained interest in their work with this album. 'Touch me fall', 'Least complicated', and so many other great songs. (kyrlidis@earthlink.net)

This CD moved me emotionally more than any other this year. Variety of moods, quality of lyrics, it hogged the fave album slot for a long while until Sarah McLachlan's Fumbling Toward Ecstacy came along for me. (martin@mandab.co.uk)

I thought I would never appreciate the Indigo Girls, but after hearing "Touch Me Fall," I knew I had to get this CD. A much richer sound than any of their previous works. (stuart@sph.emory.edu)


1200 Curfews

Release info:

1995—Epic—E2K 67229

Availability:

Readily available worldwide

Ecto priority:

Recommended for folk fans

Group members:

Amy Ray—vocals, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, mandolin, melodica
Emily Saliers—vocals, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, dobro

Guest artists:

Russell Carter—vocals
Jimmy Descant—electric guitar, vocals
Gail Ann Dorsey—vocals
Sheila Doyle—violin
Sandy Garfinkle, harmonica
Sara Lee—bass, vocals, penny whistle
Michael Lorant—vocals, tambourine
Michelle Malone—mandolin, vocals
Jerry Marotta—drums, vocals, saxophone
Gerard McHugh—vocals
Scarlet Rivera—violin
Jane Scarpantoni—penny whistle, cello
Dede Vogt—vocals.

Produced by:

Indigo Girls and Russell Carter

Comments:

1200 Curfews contains songs from various points in Indigo Girls' career, including rare tracks such as a song from their very first tape (recorded in 1981), excellent live covers such as Neil Young's "Down By The River" and Bob Dylan's "Tangled Up In Blue", and live versions of crowd favourites like "Closer To Fine" and "Least Complicated". It's a fairly good retrospective on their career so far, but for me, what's almost better than the music is hearing the way they interact with the audience. Just listen to the audience singing during "Galileo" (Amy and Emily customarily stop singing and let the crowd have the stage during the last verse) and you'll hear what I mean. (Sherlyn.Koo)

i like the indigo girls a lot, but i'm a teensy bit sorry i bought it. i think there are certain ways people *lean* in music, certain styles that are appreciated more than others, and i tend to lean away from folk-ey music. i love a lot of it, but a lot doesn't work for me. anyway, what i'm trying to say with regard to the indigo girls is that while i love their music, i fail to note any important differences between a studio recording and a live one. while there is a lot of energy apparent on the album, it doesn't work for me in that context, so i'm left thinking i should've just stuck with the studio albums. and there seem to be instruments people lean towards, too—for a lot of people it's guitars, but for me it's piano and synth-ey stuff, so the live guitar sound doesn't move me particularly either. a good album, but a disappointment nonetheless, for those reasons. i quite like their rendition of "bury my heart at wounded knee", though, which i wouldn't have had otherwise :) (damon)

While a few of these songs don't strike me, there are dozens of others that are fantastic. Some really amazing covers, and versions of songs that totally revitalize them. Makes me anxious to see an i-girls show again. It's been a number of years for me. Oh yeah, and if you like the versions of "Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee," you should definitely seek out Buffy Sainte-Marie's album of a few years ago, Coincidence and Likely Stories.(neal)

A great discovery. (abehrend@direct.ca)


Shaming of the Sun

Release info:

1997—Epic—EK 68019 (US digipack); EK67891 (US jewel); 486982 2 (Australia)

Availability:

Available worldwide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended for rock and folk/rock fans

Group members:

Amy Ray—vocal, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, mandolin, bouzouki, electric baritone guitar, 12-string guitar, piano
Emily Saliers—vocal, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, bouzouki, banjo, piano, hurdy gurdy, harmonium, nylon string guitar, dulcimer

Guest artists:

David Arenz—violin
Ellis Arenz—violin
Dallas Austin—vocals
Benjamin (Smoke)—vocals
Quentin Bush—vocals
Carmen Caballero (Ulali)—vocals
Timothy P. Campion (Smoke)—drums, percussion
Jama Carter—vocals
Sheila Doyle (Big Fish Ensemble)—piano
Steve Earle—vocals, harmonica
Pura Fe Crescioni (Ulali)—vocals
Josh Freese—drums
Lisa Germano—violin, mandolin
Kenny Greenberg—electric guitar
Brian F. Halloran (Smoke)—cello
Candi Jiosne—piano
Kathy Kee—vello
Jennifer Kreisberg (Ulali)—vocals
Michael Kurth—double bass
Danny Laufer—cello
Sara Lee—bass, pennywhistle, Hammond B-3
David Leonard—hurdy gurdy
Coleman T. Lewis (Smoke)—electric guitar
Michael Lorant (Big Fish Ensemble)—vocals, piano
Jun-Ching Lin—violin
Jerry Marotta—drums, percussion, taos drums, flinstone, harmonium
Michelle Malone—vocals
Paul Murphy—viola
Heidi Nitchie—viola
Mickey Raphael—harmonica
Dave Richards—acoustic bass
Willard Shull—violin
Andy Stochansky—drums, percussion, talking drum, dumbek
Sou-Chun Su—violin
William W. Taft (Smoke)—cornet
Chris Verene (The Rock*A*Teens)—drums

Produced by:

Indigo Girls and David Leonard

Comments:

Indigo Girls' sixth studio album proves once again that they are unafraid to take chances, both musically and on a more personal level. Most of the songs on this album are much harder-edged than anything they've done before, loaded with electric guitars and Indigo Girls' trademark passionate vocals. Yet despite what some might see as a radical departure from the style of their earlier albums, Shaming of the Sun proves that Amy Ray and Emily Saliers, folk background notwithstanding, have what it takes to rock and roll. From the more mainstream pop/rock of Amy's "Shame On You" and Emily's "It's Alright"; through the pounding beat, wailing backing singers (Native American group Ulali) and downright sexiness of Amy's "Shed Your Skin"; to Emily's "Caramia", a rock ballad complete with sweeping strings and cryptic lyrics, this is Indigo Girls' most complex and ambitious album to date. Other highlights include Emily's weary and wise "Everything in Its Own Time", Amy's passionate "Don't Give That Girl a Gun", written about the recent break-up of her long-term relationship, and Emily's uptempo banjo-driven "Get Out the Map". If you're looking for some music to simultaneously challenge your mind, set your feet tapping and get you singing along, Shaming of the Sun is the album for you. (Sherlyn.Koo)

Come On Now Social

Release info:

1999—Sony Music (Epic)—EK69914

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Amy Ray—electric and acoustic guitars, mandolin, vocals
Emily Saliers—electric guitar, acoustic guitar, banjo, bazouki, slide guitar, slide electric and acoustic guitars, vocals

Guest artists:

John Reynolds—drums, percussion, kazoo
Dawson Miller—percussion
Clare Kenny—bass, backing vocals
Carol Isaacs—organ, moog, wurlitzer, accordion, backing vocals
Caroline Dale—cello, backing vocals
Joan Osborne—backing vocals on 4 tracks
Pamela Stickney—theremin
Jerry Marotta—drums
Rick Danko—bass
Garth Hudson—keyboards
Sheryl Crow—backing vocals on 2 tracks
Malcolm Burn—beat box, piano
Ian Stanley—organ
Tim Green—tenor sax
Renard Poche—trombone
Reginald Houston—baritone sax
Brady Blade, Jr.—drums
Ozilline Walker—voice speaking on track 7
Kate Schellenbach—drums
Me'Shell Me'shell NdegéOcello—bass on 2 tracks
Justin Adams—ngoni
Natacha Atlas—backing vocals on 1 track

Produced by:

John Reynolds and Indigo Girls

Comments:

Well, I was hesitant about this album. I think my fears were mostly that with all the guest artists, that it wouldn't be an indigo girls album, that they were moving away from their two-girls-with-guitars-and-amazing-harmonies and becoming more of a band. But I liked the samples I heard well enough to order the album. And, fortunately, these fears were mostly unfounded, and I was very pleasantly surprised by my first listen.
     The amount of guest artists seems much less both in quantity and impact than the previews I had read. No track has more than 1 guest on it, and many have none, and the guesting is mostly backing vocals. Natacha Atlas' vocals on the last track are especially good.
     There are 2 songs I don't like, but mostly this is a very good album, in terms of album standards and indigo girls albums standards, way better than Shaming of the Sun. And the Indigo Girls, the duo, the harmonies, the melodies, are very firmly at the core. (JoAnn Whetsell)

I think this is a natural growth from last year's Suffragette Sessions tour, that featured a whole smorgasbord of styles. (paul2k@aol.com)

An excellent and far less folky and more eclectic mix than anything they've ever done before. (Sherlyn.Koo)


Retrospective

Release info:

2000—Epic—EK 85177

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Amy Ray—vocals, guitar, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, mandolin, bouzouki
Emily Saliers—vocals, guitar, acoustic guitar, rhythm guitar, bouzouki, electric guitar, banjo, classical guitar

Guest artists:

Peter O'Toole—mandolin, background vocals
Fiachna O'Braonain—tin whistle, background vocals
Liam O'Maonlai—bodhran, background vocals
Paulinho Da Costa—percussion
John Keane—12 string electric guitar
Dede Voght—bass
Jay Dee Daugherty—drums
John Jennings—electric guitars
Sara Lee—bass
Kenny Aronoff—drums
Peter Holsapple—keyboard
Budgie—drums and percussion
Lisa Germano—fiddle, violin, mandolin, penny whistle
Ronan Browne—Uileann pipes
Donal Lunny—bouzouki and bodhran
Jerry Marotta—drums, percussion, piano, bongos, Taos drums, flinstone
Talvinde Singh—percussion
Simone Simonton—cymbals, sidestick
Jai Winding—piano
Danny Thompson—acoustic bass
John Painter—flugel horn, accordion
Bill Newton—chromatic harmonica
Chuck Leavell—piano
Joel Sonnier—accordion
Steve Earle—vocals, harmonica
John Reynolds—drums, percussion
Dawson Miller—percussion
Clare Kenny—bass
Carol Isaacs—organ, moog, accordion, piano
Caroline Dale—cello
Malcolm Burn—beat box
Blair Cunningham—drums
Michael Kamen—string conducting and arrangement on "Ghost"
Luka Bloom, Michael Stipe (R.E.M.), Michael Lorant, the Roches, Sam "Shake" Anderson, Dallas Austin, Quentin Bush, Jama Carter, Joan Osborne—background vocals

Produced by:

John Keane (1), Scott Litt (2-4), Peter Collins (5-10), Indigo Girls and David Leonard (11-12), John Reynolds and Indigo Girls (13-16)

Comments:

As far as career retrospective albums go, this is probably the best they get. 14 songs spanning 7 albums, plus 2 new tracks that are as good as anything they've done before, particularly "Devotion." Plus notes on the origin, meaning of all the songs by Amy and Emily. And and "insightful new essay by author Susan Faludi" which I haven't read yet. And if you buy it at Borders, you get a bonus cd with acoustic versions of "Mystery" and "Reunion" and a live version of "Shame on You." (JoAnn Whetsell)

Become You

Release info:

2002—Epic—9699-86134-2

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Amy Ray—vocals, acoustic guitar, mandolin, bouzouki, harmonica
Emily Saliers—vocals, 6 and 12 string acoustic guitar, classical guitar, electric guitar, bouzouki, mandolin

Guest artists:

Carol Isaacs—Hammond B-3, wurlitzer, piano, accordion, penny whistle, recorder, percussion
Clare Kenny—acoustic and electric bass
Brady Blade—drums and percussion
Michelle Malone—vocals on "Moment of Forgiveness" and "Hope Alone," vocals and harmonica on "Bitterroot"
Dan Higgins—saxophone on "You've Got To Show"
Jerry Hey—string arrangement on "Hope Alone"

Produced by:

Peter Collins

Comments:

I think Become You is a beautiful album. I read reviews that said it was closer to their Swamp Ophelia days, but I'm not sure I'd agree with that, though I wouldn't necessarily disagree either. It is more acoustic, with fewer backing musicians, and different ones than in the past. So it's more like the past as in not really exploring different musical styles and less electric and not really rock, and not really political. I guess it's a little easier to say what it's not like than what it is like. Which may come off sounding like a bad thing, or a not great thing, but I don't mean it that way. It's another strong album. A really strong album. And it's nice that they're still making really good albums. I've only listened to the whole album twice or so, and individual songs a few more times than that, so I'm not singing along, and somehow I think this is not a sing-along album, but it's a lovely album to listen to, and one I think.
     If you buy it at Borders you can get a bonus disc with an alternate version of "Our Deliverance," a live version of "Everything In Its Own Time," and "Johnny Rottentail," a song from Amy's solo album Stag. The first and third are good but not stellar, but the live version of "Everything In Its Own Time" is stunning. It's not one of my favorite songs of theirs, but this version is slow and moody and a bit dark, and I love the cello on it. (JoAnn Whetsell)

All That We Let In

Release info:

2004—Epic Records—EK 91003

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Recommended

Group members:

Amy Ray—vocals, 6- and 12-string acoustic guitar, electric guitar, mandolin, handclaps, vocals
Emily Saliers—vocals, 6- and 12-string and highstring acoustic guitar, electric guitar, mandolin, piano, handclaps, vocals

Guest artists:

Carol Isaacs—hammond B-3, Wurlitzer, piano, accordion, penny whistle, recorder, percussion, vibraphone, ocarina
Clare Kenny—acoustic and electric bass, electric guitar
Brady Blade—drums and percussion
Mark Van Allen—pedal steel (7)
David Henry—cello (5, 7)
John Holmes—congas (11), handclaps
Joan Osborne—additional background vocals (2, 6, 11)
Peter Collins—handclaps
Glen Matullo—handclaps
Susan Tanner—handclaps
Ann Tanner—handclaps

Produced by:

Peter Collins

Comments:

A new Indigo Girls album is no longer the cause for celebration it once was, but it's still cause for joy. I'll probably never love another one of their albums the way I love Indigo Girls and Rites of Passage, but there are few albums period I love that much. Each new studio album from Shaming of the Sun on has required some time to grow on me. All That We Let In has only needed a few listens. It's bright and sunny, less overtly political than previous albums (somewhat surprising and a bit disappointing in this era of the Iraq war protests and gay marriage arguments).
     There are some really good songs though—"Tether" and "Cordova" among them, I'd probably include "Perfect World" too. I love the banjo on that song, and it does show their socially conscious side, implicating our consumerism in the world's environmental destruction but sounding a hopeful note at the end with the question "Can we learn to live another way?" (assuming, of course, your answer is yes, we can). "Tether" might be their best "rock" song ever.
     Unfortunately there is also a lot of blandness. The rest of the album is littered with love songs, both about joy and heartbreak. Still, it's growing on me, as the last few albums have, though I too haven't really loved an album since Swamp Ophelia, although I've loved individual songs. I guess I like their harmonies and instrumentation enough that I enjoy their music even if/when I don't consider it all that inspired.
     On the new album, I think it's the first time I've preferred Amy's songs to Emily's. Amy has retained her social consciousness. Emily's songs here are not bad, but simply ordinary (which may be worse).
     I was listening to Rites of Passage this morning and was reminded of how great the Indigo Girls can be, how passionate, how beautiful, how original. I miss that. But I guess I'm not too disappointed because I don't expect great albums from them anymore. I'm happy enough to settle for a few really good songs and some friendly stuff to sing along to.
     So if you're a dedicated fan, you'll find stuff to like on All That We Let In. If you didn't like their great albums, you should skip this; you won't like it either. If you are a fan but decide to skip it anyway, do yourself a favor and download "Tether" and "Cordova" somewhere. I haven't looked at the accompanying bonus DVD yet (live versions of "Galileo," "Kid Fears", and 4 songs from All That We Let In recorded at the Bottom Line), so I can't say how much of a draw it is.
     I pulled out this album recently (summer 2010), having not listened to it in a long time. It has not stood the test of time. "Tether" is the only song I would actually call a good song, maybe even great. Otherwise I was quite bored and couldn't wait for the disc to end. Sad. (JoAnn Whetsell)

Umm, excuse me while I climb into my flame-proof suit...there, that should come in handy. So: The girls continue their steady drift to the Middle of the Road, asleep at the wheel, the radio tuned to an easy-listening station. This doesn't have anything as cheesy as the sax break on their last album's "You've Got to Show", nor any song quite as dire as "Andy" from the one before that, and it certainly picks up about halfway through, but...well, Amy finally turns out (in my opinion, just to repeat myself) a dud—the shuffling ska beat of "Heartbreak for Everyone" has got to be her worst song yet, and typifies what's going wrong, for me, here. They now seem content to produce—on the whole—nice, tuneful, clap-along, singalongs, with simplistic, inoffensive lyrics, stuffed full of folksy homilies. Just when we need the anger and commitment that they are more than capable of, they seem happy to sit on their front porch and whittle and strum. There are still a few good songs here, definitely, but they're mostly down to Amy (once you get past that dud, "Cordova" stands out a mile). Emily, whose songwriting burned so fiercely in Swamp Ophelia and Shaming of the Sun, seems to have settled back into pleasant whimsy. I think my disappointment is disproportionate to the virtues of this album, though: It's inoffensive, pleasant enough and very listenable. And that's about it. (adamk@zoom.co.uk)

I've had All That We Let In for the better part of a week now. I haven't had a chance to give it a really dedicated listen but based on about half a dozen spins in the car I'm glad to report that the album definitely is growing on me. I was worried it wouldn't. I still can't really tell Emily's songs apart yet but I've got a fairly good handle on Amy's songs and man, some of them are good! "Tether" is a big old Southern Rock Ballad and I can't wait to hear it live. "Dairy Queen" is another fine effort. I generally agree with what Adam said about "Heartache for Everyone" and yet...haven't been able to get the chorus out of my head for five days, so it must be doing something right.
     I've basically followed the same progression as others—I love each of their earlier albums on a scale that's roughly exponential, culminating with Swamp Ophelia, which is possibly my favourite album of all time. Then it pretty much drops back down again—I like each succeeding album less than the previous one. The last few years have been weird for me because I really thought that Indigo Girls were going to be *it* for me, forever. But I guess not.
     On the earlier albums I generally thought that Emily brought the songcraft and musicianship, and Amy brought the passion. That's pretty much changed ever since Swamp Ophelia—Amy's songwriting seems to be getting better and better and she still has as much passion as she ever did, while it feels that Emily just keeps going over and over the same ground. But I don't know. I'll keep listening until either I "get it", or I'm forced to admit that Emily just doesn't speak to me at this current place in my life. (Sherlyn.Koo)

Good, as always. (Wade


Rarities

Release info:

2005—Sony BMG—8 2796-94442-2 1

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Recommended for fans

Group members:

Amy Ray
Emily Saliers

Guest artists include:

Michael Stipe (R.E.M.) on "I'll Give You My Skin"
Ani DiFranco on "Ramblin' Round"

Comments:

This odds'n'sods collection (which includes demos, remixes, covers, live tracks, old songs, unreleased songs, and songs that originally appeared on compilations) has something for everyone, but given its diversity, it's unlikely anyone will like all of it. For me, the highlights are easily "Let Me Go Easy," written for an activist friend who died of ovarian cancer, and "Point Hope," written after reading about a family that used to watch the nuclear explosion at a Nevada test site.
     Of the other 16 tracks, 2 I hate (Tom Morello's remix of "Shed Your Skin" and the alternate version of "Free In You"), and 2 I dislike ("Free of Hope," a Vic Chesnutt cover originally from a Sweet Relief compilation, and "I'll Give You My Skin," which was written for a PETA anti-fur benefit album). The rest are generally likable. It is nice to hear some of their early work ("Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters," "Cold As Ice," and "Never Stop"), and they cover Ferron's "It Won't Take Long" pretty well. "Winthrop," which didn't make it onto Shaming of the Sun, grew on me quite a bit. "Finlandia," showing off beautiful harmonies, is lovely. (JoAnn Whetsell)

Despite Our Differences

Release info:

2006—Hollywood Records—162635 and 162655 (Collector's Edition)

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Recommended

Group members:

Emily Saliers—vocals, acoustic guitar, slide guitar, electric guitar, mandolin, ukulele
Amy Ray—vocals, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, mandolin, harmonica

Guest artists:

Matt Chamberlain—drums
Clare Kenny—bass
Mitchell Froom—keyboards
Carol Isaacs—piano (9, 11), organ (3, 5)
Greg Leisz—pedal steel (13)
Brandi Carlile—harmony vocals (13)
Pink—additional vocals (6)
Ruby Froom—hand claps (2)

Produced by:

Mitchell Froom

Comments:

Despite Our Differences marked their first album on the new label. It starts out well, but pretty soon, after Emily's fifth or sixth tuneful, pleasant and formulaic love song, I started to wonder if these two would ever really matter again. (adamk@zoom.co.uk)

An okay album. Despite Our Differences finds the duo sounding fresher and more energetic than on their previous album, All That We Let In.
     Unfortunately, Emily still insists on writing and recording more of the sentimental pap ("Fly Away," "Last Tears") that she's devolved into over the last few years. This is really sad since she is an excellent songwriter, and most of my favorite Indigo Girls songs are ones she penned. Her songwriting has improved since the last album, and there are really only 2 or 3 skippable songs on Despite Our Differences. "I Believe in Love" which sounds like it would be sappy is actually a strong song.
     The collector's edition includes a bonus disc with 4 live tracks and 2 "alternate studio acoustic mixes", all of songs from the album. Amy's rock songs sound great live, but unfortunately both "Fly Away" and "Last Tears" are included, and the alternate versions are no better than the studio recordings on the main disc. (JoAnn Whetsell)


Poseidon and the Bitter Bug

Release info:

2009—Vanguard—79934-2

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Amy Ray—acoustic guitar, electric guitar, mandolin, harmonica, vocals
Emily Saliers—acoustic guitar, electric guitar, vocals

Guest artists:

Mitchell Froom—keyboards
Matt Chamberlain—drums, percussion, programming
Clare Kenny—bass
Alison Brown—banjo
Missy Higgins—background vocals on "Digging for Your Dream"&"True Romantic"

Produced by:

Mitchell Froom

Comments:

I'd pretty much written this pair off as they spent the decade when they were needed most paddling in some backwater writing endless, insipid love songs and folksy ruminations. Mitch Froom's production threatens to continue the cheese factor, but the bonus acoustic disc shows that, stripped down and de-Froomed, the girls still have power. It's still not the political album I'd hoped for, but it's easily the best they've done in years. (adamk@zoom.co.uk)

I agree the acoustic disc is more powerful than the main album, and that overall it's their best work in years. (JoAnn Whetsell)


Staring Down The Brilliant Dream

Release info:

2010—Vanguard—78069-2

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Amy Ray—vocals, electric guitar, guitar, mandolin, harmonica
Emily Saliers— vocals, electric guitar, guitar, slide acoustic guitar, 12 string guitar, banjo, ukulele, mandolin

Guest artists:

Carol Isaacs—vocals, keys, accordion
Clare Kenny—vocals, bass
Matt Chamberlain—drums, drum loop
Julie Wolf—vocals, accordion, piano, keys
Jill Hennessey—vocals (disc 1, track 2)
Sean and Dominic Kelly—vocals (disc 1, track 2)
Michelle Malone—vocals (disc 1, track 2); vocals, guitar (disc 2, track 16)
Brandi Carlile—vocals, guitar (disc 1, tracks 11, 12)
Trina Meade—vocals (disc 1, track 13)
Eric Kufs (Common Rotation)—vocals (disc 2, track 2)
Adam Busch (Common Rotation)—harmonica, vocals (disc 2, track 2)
Jordan Katz (Common Rotation)—banjo, vocals (disc 2, track 2)
Ryan Raddatz (Common Rotation)—mandolin (disc 2, track 2)

Produced by:

Indigo Girls and Brian Speiser

Comments:

It's been 13 years since I saw the Indigo Girls play Lilith Fair NJ in 1997. 15 years since they released the double live CD 1200 Curfews. Back then they had 5 full-length albums (including their three greatest) of songs to choose from. Since then they've released an additional 6 studio albums. Which means that for Staring Down the Brilliant Dream they had 11 studio albums and 25 years of music to choose from.
     For the most part they chose well. Their most recent work is best represented, with 17 of the 31 tracks coming from their 4 most recent albums. There are also 2 covers (a great version of "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right" with Brandi Carlile and a not-quite-as-winning "Wild Horses" with Michelle Malone). It's a love project for fans—part live album, part career retrospective—with backstage and concert photos of the Girls and guests and notes on each song, about its evolution or the particular recording.
     I could quibble with certain things—starting the album with "Heartache for Everyone," one of the worst songs Amy's ever written; the Girls-glorifying essay by Holly Crenshaw; the lack of banter except for an obligatory "Thanks y'all" at the end of songs, the complete absence of Rites of Passage...
     But there's too much joy here, too much to celebrate, to bother focus on relatively minor complaints. The Girls are more energetic here than they've been on recent albums. There's a rousing rendition of "Closer to Fine," a song which is quite old but never stale. Other highlights are "Tether," the closest they get to rocking out; "Fugitive" and "Prince of Darkness" with prominent piano; and a revitalized "Kid Fears" with Trina Meade doing the original Michael Stipe (R.E.M.) part. Even "Fly Away," which is pretty sleepy on record, sounds lovely here.
     It's, of course, too early to tell, but I wouldn't be surprised to find myself still listening to this album 15 years from now. (JoAnn Whetsell)

Holly Happy Days

Release info:

2010—Vanguard—78120-2

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Medium-low

Produced by:

Peter Collins

Comments:

I love holiday music, and I love the Indigo Girls, but this album does little for me. The original songs that make up two-thirds of the album range from hokey but cute to boring. None really grab me and make me look forward to adding them to my yearly rotation. The traditionals are just okay. The best tracks are Chely Wright's "It Really Is (A Wonderful Life)" and the simple, folky version of "Angels We Have Heard on High."
     Maybe in trying to be really inclusive (there's religious Christmas music, secular holiday stuff, and a shout-out to Hanukkah) the album is kind of inoffensive and generic. Maybe the mix of country, bluegrass, and that indefinable Indigo Girls style is just not the vibe I want for my holiday music (less charitably: at times it's just plain weird). I find it hard to explain my dislike for this album. It's not really bad, but it's not good either. I guess that's the problem. (JoAnn Whetsell)

Beauty Queen Sister

Release info:

2011—IG Recordings/Vanguard—78190-2

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Medium

Group members:

Amy Ray—electric guitar, acoustic guitar, electric mandolin, mandolin, vocals
Emily Saliers—ukulele, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, slide guitar, classical guitar, vocals

Guest artists:

Brady Blade—drums, loop
Frank Swart—bass
Jim Brock—percussion, loop, drums
Carol Isaacs—Wurlitzer, Hammond B3, vibes, piano, accordion
Luke Bulla—violin, mandolin
Alison Brown—banjola, banjo
Viktor Krauss—upright bass
Allen Parker—synth loop (8)
Stuart Mathis—electric guitar (10)
John Reynolds—drums (11)
Clare Kenny—bass (11)
Eamonn De Barra—whistles, flute (11)
John McLoughlin—acoustic guitar, mandolin (11)
The Shadowboxers (Adam Hoffman, Matt Lipkins, Scott Schwartz)—backing vocals (3, 4)
Lucy Wainwright Roche—guest vocals (5); additional backing vocals (12)
Damien Dempsey—backing vocals (11)

Produced by:

Peter Collins

Comments:

A couple of good songs (in particular the title track showcases some of the vitality they regained in Poseidon and the Bitter Bitter Bug) but too much of the album is sleepy and dull. (JoAnn Whetsell)

A disappointment after their last release, this sees them at least trying for something different in their instrumentation, with some nice jazzy violin flourishes, but while there are some sparky songs on here, the quality varies wildly and at only the second track you encounter Emily's twee and patronising "John", arguably among their worst tracks ever. (adamk@zoom.co.uk)


One Lost Day

Release info:

2015—Vanguard—78468-2

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Emily Saliers—vocals, acoustic guitars, dulcimer, electric guitar, highstrung guitar, banjo
Amy Ray—vocals, electric guitar, octave mando guitar, acoustic guitars, mandolin

Guest artists:

Brady Blade—drums (1, 4, 8, 10, 12)
Lex Price—bass (1, 12)
Carol Isaacs—Wurlitzer (1); muted piano (1, 3, 12); piano (7, 10, 13); accordion (8, 11); B3 organ (10, 13); wooden Wurlitzer (11)
Jaron Pearlman—drums (2, 5, 6, 9); tambourine (2); additional drums (3, 4, 8, 11, 12)
Benjamin Ryan Williams—bass (2, 5, 6, 9)
Lyris Hung—violin (2, 5, 8, 10, 11, 13)
Jordan Brooke Hamlin—clarinet (2, 11); trumpet (2, 12); French horn (2, 5); additional vocals, programming (3); electric guitar (3, 4, 9, 12, 13); piano (3-5, 11, 12); octave mando guitar (3, 6); archtop guitar (4); organ (4, 6); dulcimer, percussion (5); bass (7); baritone guitar, banjo (8); noises (8, 11); pedal steel (8, 12); additional drums (8, 13); synth, keys (9); highstrung guitar (13)
Fred Eltringham—drums (3, 11, 13)
Butterfly Boucher—bass (3, 11, 13)
Chris Donohue—bass (4)
Lex Price—bazouki (8); bass (8, 10)
Lucy Wainwright Roche—vocals (8)
Brian Joseph—additional drums (9)
Don Chaffer—cello (11)

Produced by:

Jordan Brooke Hamlin

Comments:

A really good album, with great musicianship and a mixture of folky and more rocking songs, as usual. I tend to prefer the more rocking songs on the album (it's been that way with me with the Indigo Girls for a while), but the more folky songs are pretty strong as well. "Olympia Inn" (where the album really gets going), "Spread the Pain Around" and "The Rise of the Black Messiah" are standouts, not only on this album but for their entire catalog. (JoAnn Whetsell)

Further info:

VIDEOS

The Indigo Girls have released 4 video collections:

  • Live at the Uptown Lounge (1990);
  • Watershed: 10 Years of Underground Video (1995);
  • Live at the Fillmore (2000)
  • Live at the Roxy (2009)
COMPILATIONS

They have contributed songs appear to numerous compilations. Recordings not available on their own releases include:

  • "Get Together" on The Wonder Years soundtrack (1989)
  • "Blood Quantum" on Honor: A Benefit for the Honor the Earth Campaign (1996)
  • "Letter to Eve" on Where Have All the Flowers Gone: The Songs of Pete Seeger (1998)
  • "Mrs. Robinson" on the Desperate Housewives soundtrack (2005)
Live recordings unavailable on their own releases include

  • "Love's Recovery" on The Best of Mountain Stage Live, Vol. 5 (1993)
  • "Strange Fire" on Women Live from Mountain Stage (1996)
  • "Scooter Boys" on Lilith Fair—A Celebration of Women in Music, Vol. 1 (1998)
  • "Water Is Wide" with Jewel and Sarah McLachlan on Lilith Fair—A Celebration of Women in Music, Vol. 1 (1998) and Best of Lilith Fair 1997 to 1999 (2010)
  • "Get Out the Map" on Lilith Fair—A Celebration of Women in Music, Vol. 3 (1999)
  • "Moment of Forgiveness" on 107.1 KGSR Radio Austin — Broadcasts Vol. 10 (2002)
  • "Become You" on WYEP Live and Direct: Volume 4 — On Air Performances (2002)
  • "Closer to Fine" and "Get Out the Map" on The Bridge School Collection, Vol. 1 (2006)
  • "Least Complicated" on The Bridge School Collection, Vol. 2 (2006); and
  • "Kid Fears" featuring Brandi Carlile on Dear New Orleans (2010)
  • "Philosophy of Loss" on Tunes4Food: Redemption Day (2013)
  • "World Falls" featuring Brandi Carlile on Buy This Fracking Album (2015)
COLLABORATIONS

Collaborations with other artists include:

  • "Dear Mr. President" with P!nk on her album I'm Not Dead (2006);
  • "A Little Good News" with Anne Murray on Anne Murray Duets: Friends & Legends (2007)
  • "Cannonball" with Brandi Carlile on The Story (2007)
  • "October" with Lucy Wainwright Roche (2010 single)
  • "One Way Ticket" with A Fragile Tomorrow and Joan Baez on A Fragile Tomorrow's album Make Me Over (2015)
  • "Carolina in the Pines" with Alison Brown on her album The Song of the Banjo (2015)
  • "Do You Hear What I Hear?" with John Driskell Hopkins and the Atlanta Pops Orchestra on their album In the Spirit: A Celebration of the Holidays (2015)
Emily Saliers collaborations include:

  • "Baby, Don't You Break My Heart Slow" on Vonda Shepard's album By 7:30 (1999)
  • "Jesus, Take the Wheel" and "Solo el Amor" on The Voices of Hope's self-titled album (2009)
  • "Let It Go" with Brandi Carlile and Matt Chamberlain (single, 2010)


Thanks to Sherlyn Koo, Jens P. Tagore Brage, and JoAnn Whetsell for work on this entry.

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