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Indigo Girls' Food for Thought

The cover of the Indigo Girls’ latest CD might be just as telling as the songs on it. The artwork draws a sharp contrast by picturing a young woman balancing herself on a rusty oil pipeline in a seemingly serene landscape.

A similar contrast can be found in the Indigo Girls’ use of melancholic folk pop to spread their message of social activism.

Ever since “Come On Now Social,” the group has been known for taking clear social and political stands. Their new album, “All That We Let In,” is not any different and even lists the names and Web sites of 10 activist organizations on its inside cover, from Moveon.org to the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force.

For a band that portrays an anti-establishment image, it is surprising that the Indigo Girls are signed to Sony Records, one of the world’s largest and most influential entertainment conglomerates. Sony should be commended for supporting the Girls’ political polemics, but it’s questionable whether the company is a credible outlet for their activist musings.

Singers/songwriters Emily Saliers and Amy Ray come from opposite ends of the music spectrum, combining the former musician’s traditional folk interests with the latter’s punky edge. The duo started to play together in Atlanta in the early ’80s, but didn’t formally take on the Indigo Girls name until 1985.

They had their first commercial and artistic success in 1989 when their self-titled second album won a Grammy for Best Folk Recording of the Year and broke into the upper ranks of the Billboard Album Chart.

“All That We Let In” is the group’s ninth studio album, and Saliers and Ray worked with producer Peter Collins and musicians Brady Blade (drums), Clare Kenny (base) and Carol Issacs (keyboard), as they did on 2002’s “Become You.”

Rock singer Joan Osborne (“One Of Us”) contributes background vocals on “Tether,” “Rise Up” and “Hearthache For Everyone.”

The two singers decided to push their own musical abilities on this album. For the first time, Ray, who usually plays rhythm guitars, took on some solos, and Saliers experimented with new instruments, including the mandolin and high-string guitar.

At first Listen, “All That We Let In” is an alternative pop album that combines the Girls’ wholesome brand of folk, rock and gentle country tunes but it is hardly groundbreaking. But the singers’ poignant lyrics will make many sit up and take notice.

After making music for almost 20 years, the Indigo Girls still have something to say that is worth hearing. The 11-song album kicks off with Saliers’ up-tempo “Fill It Up Again.” The song features the duo’s pitch-perfect harmonies that, at times, almost sound Beatles-esque.

On the surface, the song appears to be a poetic love-gone-sour tune, but Saliers cleverly included some of her environmental concerns by inserting ambiguous phrases such as “the hole in my sky, my shrinking water supply.”

One of the album’s highlights is the breezy “Perfect World,” which includes a playful accordion arrangement. Ray takes a stand in support of balancing environmental concerns and materialistic needs when she sings, “We are forgetting what it takes for one perfect world.”

The band’s activism takes center stage again on “Cordova,” which highlights Ray’s friendships with protesters in the Native American community.

“All That We Let In” is a touching tribute to an activist friend who died in a car accident.

Another high point is the truly heartfelt “Come On Home” about a relationship gone awry. Saliers sentimentally croons, “I count my blessings, while I eye what I’ve neglected.”

This CD marks another milestone in the Indigo Girls’ critically acclaimed career. Their all-American sound and timeless lyricism warms the heart while giving listeners something to think about.

March 12, 2004 | Permalink

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very good site.........and i like your review of IG's newest...

Posted by: elizabeth at Oct 20, 2004 7:29:36 AM

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