|Indigo Girls – Beauty Queen Sister (2011)|
Indigo Girls - Beauty Queen Sister [By Peter Zimmerman]
October 04, 2011
Glide Magazine Review:
The Indigo Girls’ fourteenth studio record Beauty Queen Sister (out on Vanguard / IG Recordings) is one of their most ambitious and experimental releases to date-- a feat fairly unexpected this far into their twenty-five year career. In fact, it’s a stunning blend of classic Indigo Girls aesthetic with new sounds and rhythms, keeping the record from disenfranchising their fan base but broadening their palette in ways seldom seen over the past ten years. It’s at times daring and audacious, diving into a fury of strings or Celtic-inspired anthems. But there’s still the traditional Emily Saliers-penned ballad and the beautiful harmonies that have taught generations of musicians how to seamlessly blend voices together to create robust and resplendent sonic consonance.
Opener “Share The Moon” continues Amy Ray’s recent fascination with laid-back, softly sung grooves, while also echoing Emily Saliers’ R&B flecked “Digging For You Dream” from their last record, Poseidon and the Bitter Bug (2009). The percussion is spot on for the track, providing a supple ground upon which Ray’s resonant alto gracefully dances. The chorus, with it’s “Hey la la” and handclaps never break the cadence but give the right amount of upbeat-ness to fuel the song forward. It’s one of the most bewitching and hypnotic songs of their career and shows both Ray and Saliers trying out different moods with their voices, to great success.
Ray brings in a bit of her punk-leaning solo work (specifically from 2005’s Prom) for the title track, which is a chronicle of teenage angst and rowdiness that would fit on a 70’s Bruce Springsteen album. But it’s her two final songs on Beauty Queen Sister that help mark the record as so innovative and perhaps even radical among their catalogue. “Damo” begins with a tribal drum beat and mandolin before Ray and Saliers burst in with voices full of conviction and intent. It’s relentless over its four minute length, building in intensity until exploding in the cathartic descant, sung by Irish singer-songwriter Damien Dempsey. While both Ray and Saliers play a major part in the song’s splendor, their willingness to give the spotlight to Dempsey and Eamonn de Barra’s flute/whistle demonstrate their humility and their tact at knowing how to turn up the conceptual volume on a work that expands their sound greatly. And closing track “Yoke” acts in much the same way, but musically differs considerably. It opens with Luke Bull’s haunting and intensely stirring strings work that provides the framework for the whole song. It then builds with some electric piano and organ and Amy Ray’s full-throated voice that is full of anger, hurt, and passion. It’s an amplified version of her many attempts at writing a poignant album closer, but it hits square in the chest and gets it just right.
Interestingly enough, however, Emily Saliers’ six songs on Beauty Queen Sister are the most consistent and overall strong contributions. Over the past ten years, her material has wavered in quality considerably, oftentimes leaning too heavily into sappy, orthodox balladry that lacked the fire of her 90s output. While she stills plays it safe at points from a structural point of view, her lyrics and melodies are some of the most engaging she’s recorded. “John” features a thoughtful interplay between nostalgia and gaiety, and is especially catchy. “We Get To Feel It All” is a sultry, hip-swaying mid-tempo piece that displays Saliers’ newfound comfort with the sensuality of her soprano. At 48 she’s never been more seductive, and it’s thrilling to see her embrace that. While “Birthday Song” uncomfortably calls to mind “Philosophy of Loss” in its similarity, it’s a surprisingly non-cliché-ridden work. “Feed and Water The Horses” is a wholly winsome and lovely piano-based track with a ridiculously fun chorus. And “Gone” and “Able To Sing” further show her able hand at crafting upbeat songs, and absolutely give songs from her 90s era, like “Get Out The Map” and “Least Complicated” a challenge for Saliers’ pop/folk greatness.
While Beauty Queen Sister on the whole is an exciting indication of Ray and Saliers’ continued relevance and artistry, there are a few missteps that keep this from being among the pantheon of their best work. The album sequencing is utterly bewildering, because it takes the many different sounds and rather than try to find a trajectory in which the variety has a logical progression, it’s just messy. “Share the Moon” into “John” is abrupt and odd to go from slinky to conventional folk, and then into the bouncy punk/pop of the title track just gives it even more chaos. Also, there are some Amy Ray songs that just don’t measure up to the quality of her writing on recent albums Despite Our Differences (2006) and Poseidon and the Bitter Bug. “Mariner Moonlighting” never goes anywhere except in a lilting swing without any teeth, and “War Rugs” is a droning, fairly monotonous piece that too literally connects with the Egyptian protests of last year; even Lucy Wainwright Roche’s gorgeous guest vocal can’t rescue the song from firm b-side status. “Making Promises” comes across as a bit too by-the-book of a single, but when not given too much thought, it can be a bouncy, joyous tune, so it is not as frustrating as the other two mentioned.
Despite its missteps, Beauty Queen Sister is a real testament to the deftness with which Saliers and Ray approach songwriting and their keen ear for harmony-- both of which show few signs of wavering. They’re consummate musicians and have built a career that has withstood a great range of changes in the music industry, and there really isn’t any album from their fourteen studio records that falls flat or feels uninspired. While they could continue to deliver solid sets of songs constructed in their conventional paradigm, their willingness to experiment and travel in new directions with their latest record-- and do so successfully-- both reinvigorates their catalogue and shows that they still have plenty to say, and it’s worth listening in.
Indigo Girls – Beauty Queen Sister
Location: DECATUR, Georgia, US
Released: October 4, 2011
Genre: Folk rock
Record Label: Vanguard
Producer: Peter Collins
Indigo Girls Recording Career includes fourteen studio records, three live records and three greatest hits compilations:
- seven gold records
- four reaching platinum
... - one reaching double platinum
- cumulative sales in excess of 12 million records
- seven Grammy nominations, one win
*Amy Ray – Vocals, songwriting, guitar
*Emily Saliers – Vocals, songwriting, guitar
Birth name: Amy Elizabeth Ray
Born: April 12, 1964
Origin: Georgia, United States
She also pursues a solo career and has released four albums under her own name, and founded a record company, Daemon Records.
Born: July 22, 1963 (New Haven, Connecticut)
Origin: Connecticut, United States
Saliers plays lead guitar as well as banjo, piano, mandolin, ukulele, bouzouki and many other instruments.
Saliers was born in New Haven, Connecticut to Don and Jane Saliers and grew up in Decatur, Georgia (in metro Atlanta), where her father was a professor at the Candler School of Theology at Emory University. Saliers is the second eldest of four children — all girls. She attended Shamrock High School, and began her college education at Tulane University but transferred to Emory University, graduating in 1985 with a bachelor's degree in English.
In 2004, Saliers composed her first film score for the independent short film, One Weekend a Month. Although she has not released a solo album, she regularly does solo appearances at benefit shows or as a guest with friends' bands.
Their 14th studio album finds the Indigo Girls operating as powerfully as at any time in their career, on a set of uncommonly strong songs performed with the kind of typically understated Nashville polish that affords their signature harmonies the full spotlight.
At times they may stray dangerously close to melodic MOR, but even when singing a “Birthday Song” they manage to come up with such an engaging sentiment you have to forgive them. Elsewhere, their liberal-left leanings are deftly employed in tableaux of Springsteen-esque teen streetscape (“Beauty Queen Sister”), down-home rustic neighbourliness (“John”) and even an intelligent, sympathetic assessment of the Egyptian revolution (“War Rugs”).
01. Share the Moon [03:33]
02. John [04:20]
03. Beauty Queen Sister [03:09]
04. We Get to Feel It All [03:30]
05. War Rugs [03:22]
06. Gone [03:01]
07. Mariner Moonlighting [03:35]
08. Birthday Song [04:18]
09. Feed and Water the Horses [04:28]
10. Making Promises [03:17]
11. Damo [04:06]
12. Able to Sing [04:01]
13. Yoke [05:07]
Facebook new & official: http://www.facebook.com/theindigogirls?sk=app_7146470109
Facebook 2: http://www.facebook.com/IndigoGirls?sk=wall
Indigo Girls lead lineup for 2010 Folkfest St. Pete |
Photo: Getty Images |
You know Folkfest St. Pete? The event held in downtown St. Pete that attracts a big collection of folk and Americana artists? That event?
No, unfortunately, the odds are you probably don't know Folkfest, which will enter its fourth year in October. Nothing against the event, of course -- it's just way down the list of priorities on the annual Tampa Bay music calendar.
That'll change this year. Because this year, Folkfest is getting its biggest headliner yet.
The Indigo Girls will play a free concert on the first night of Folkfest St. Pete, which starts Oct. 1 in downtown St. Petersburg. Other artists on the bill include Dar Williams, the Heavy Pets, Have Gun Will Travel, Rebekah Pulley and the Reluctant Prophets and Ronny Elliott. Get a full lineup (so far) after the jump.
Indigo Girls perform several cuts from new album at Criminal Records.
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Music. Warmth people. Good songs.Delight in female voice.YOU!Kaki King