Artists You Should Know: Indigo Girls

Indigo Girls

Next Thursday, The Orpheum stage will host performances by a pack of immensely talented musicians in celebration of Progressive Magazine‘s 100th Anniversary.  Among the artists to set take the stage along the likes of Ani DiFranco and Dar Williams is the internationally recognized folk duo The Indigo Girls.  Get tickets to the show here!

“It’s been two decades since the Indigo Girls launched their career with their independently released debut album, 1987’s Strange Fire. Now, after entertaining millions of fans with their 10 major-label studio albums (nine on Epic Records and one, 2006’s Despite Our Differences, on Hollywood Records), Emily Saliers and Amy Ray have come full circle with the independent release of their new 2-CD album, Poseidon And The Bitter Bug, on their new label IG Recordings, distributed through Vanguard Records.

The new album reunites the Grammy-winning duo with veteran producer, arranger and keyboardist Mitchell Froom (Elvis Costello, Paul McCartney, Los Lobos and others), who worked on the Indigo Girls’ acclaimed 2006 release, Despite Our Differences. Longtime bassist Clare Kenny, drummer Matt Chamberlin and engineer David Boucher make up the rest of the core band but the sound is pure Indigo Girls, with uplifting, effortless harmonies; honest, passionately involved lyrics and infectious melodies.

‘Mitchell was able to build a bridge between Emily’s songs and my songs more successfully than anyone we’ve worked with, says Ray, ‘he’s a musicians’ musician and has a very clear idea of what will work.’ Adds Saliers, ‘He likes Amy’s music and he likes my music, which is not the easiest thing to find because we are so different and our songs are different.’

The album was recorded in Atlanta in a whirlwind three week session – they wanted to keep a sense of spontaneity and discovery to the process. And it’s the songwriting that shines on Poseidon, with the duo exploring new approaches to melody, harmonics and rhythm, especially on Saliers’ ‘Digging For Your Dream,’ which she says is ‘as close to R&B as I’ve ever gotten,’ and Ray’s ‘Sugar Tongue,’ a fevered meditation on colonialism that finds her experimenting with her higher vocal range to capture an innocence not commonly displayed by the fiery rocker.

Says Saliers, ‘For a band like us, it might feel inauthentic if we tried to branch out in some crazy way musically. That’s why Amy makes solo records, so she can do her own thing outside of what we do together. As a unit, we do what we do and Mitchell just happens to bring the best out of it. That’s a good thing at this point in our career.

Indigo Girls2

One thing the Girls have done differently on Poseidon is include a second CD that features acoustic versions of all the songs, plus a bonus track, ‘Salty South.’ It’s a chance for listeners to hear stripped down, organic versions of the songs – just the Girls in a room with a few mics – before the arrangements changed with the addition of the band.

With a Grammy, six Grammy nominations and a legacy of releases and tours behind them, the Indigo Girls have outlasted many of their peers and forged their own way in the music business. They’ve always thought independently, and have always balanced their commitment to music and performing with an unwavering commitment to social, political and environmental issues – Ray and Saliers don’t just talk the talk; they walk the walk. In 1991, Ray and Saliers co-founded the non-profit organization Honor the Earth to raise awareness and financial support for indigenous environmental justice, and over the years they have supported groups fighting for women’s rights, civil rights for same-sex couples, and the abolition of the death penalty as well as voter registration.

Now with their own imprint, the Girls have come full circle; they’ve weathered the ups and downs of the music industry and come out with their musical vision and enthusiasm intact.

‘I am overwhelmingly excited to be independent because it really is where the heart of music sits for me,” says Ray, “I don’t have many regrets about the major-label life of the band because we certainly got a lot out of it. We were lucky enough to be on Epic when Pearl Jam and Rage Against The Machine were our label-mates and the company was developing bands with the intent of creating catalog artists. That has all changed, and it’s just not worth being on a major. It hasn’t felt worth it for a long time. Beyond that, it never fed my soul the way an independent career can.’

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‘I feel a great sense of freedom in finally being rid of the major-label world,’ Ray says. ‘It’s been a burden for a while for me. I felt an honesty and sincerity making Poseidon, because I fully believe in independence.’ Saliers says, ‘It fees liberating and centering, even in the midst of change.’

Poseidon And The Bitter Bug is the work of career artists at the top of their artistic game, invigorated to be doing what they love best – writing and performing music. With these two CDs, the Indigo Girls give listeners an intimate look at their songwriting and how it’s affected by the recording process. Poseidon is a release that affirms their position not only as musical icons but as artists who continue to live up to the high standards they’ve set for themselves.”

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