By the time you read this, the fantastic new Indigo Girls CD, One Lost Day (IG/Vanguard), the duo’s first new studio album in four years, should be available for purchase. More than 25 years into their recording career, Indigo Girls have never sounded better. Over the course of their prolific career, Amy Ray and Emily Saliers have also inspired countless other women (and men), gay and straight, to pursue music. The following are just a few examples.
Out singer/songwriter Michelle Malone definitely qualifies as one such artist. However, her connection to the Indigos goes deeper than just inspiration. Like Ray and Saliers, Malone was a presence on the Atlanta music scene. In fact, her independently released debut album was released a mere year after the Indigo Girls’. Malone even recorded for Ray’s indie Daemon Records label, as well as majors such as Arista and Velvel. Malone’s latest Stronger Than You Think (SBS), is another example of her musical versatility. There’s the semi-autobiographical rockabilly number “Vivian Vegas” (which deserves to be a hit), the bluesy empowerment stomp of “My Favorite Tshirt,” the country-pop of “When I Grow Up” and the Stonesy rock of “Ashes.” Malone even conjures Mary Gauthier on the dazzling “Ramona,” Lucinda Williams on the opener “Stomping Ground” and Susan Werner on “Birthday Song (I’m So Glad).”
Brandy Carlile, a lesbian singer/songwriter from Seattle, collaborated with the Indigo Girls on the song “Cannonball” from Carlile’s second album The Story. Carlile also toured with the Indigos as their opening act in the later-half of the first decade of the 21st century. Carlile is a wonder on a few different levels. She’s a gifted guitarist, a riveting live performer, an original songwriter and a singer with a voice that can bring about goose-bumps. For the past 10 years Carlile has been releasing consistently strong albums, including her latest The Firewatcher’s Daughter (ATO). Performing with the same band, identical twins Tim and Phil Hanseroth (who also share some songwriting duties), she has worked with since her first album, Carlile rocks the hardest she ever has on the blistering “Mainstream Kid.” But fear not, Carlile has not abandoned her trademark style, as can be heard on “Beginning To Feel The Years,” “Wherever Is Your Heart” and “Heroes and Songs.” There are stunning variations to be found on the amazing love songs “Wilder (We’re Chained)” and “I Belong To You,” as well as “Blood Muscle Skin & Bone” and “Murder In The City.”
You can hear the Indigo Girls’ influence on Rachel Garlin, as well as that of Ani DiFranco. Garlin, who quotes Gwendolyn Brooks on “Gwendolyn Said,” the opening track on Wink At July (Tactile). There’s a literary quality to Garlin’s work as she makes reference to the late, gay graffiti artist in the marvelous “Hey Keith Haring,” gives a shout out to Caravaggio in “Up On A Ladder in Boots,” name-drops the New York Times’ “Modern Love” column in “The Winding Road,” and soars above us on the title track.
With Hoagy Carmichael, Billy Holliday, and George Gershwin as “musical guideposts,” queer Aussie singer/songwriter Anne McCue swings in an entirely new direction on Blue Sky Thinkin’ (Flying Machine). Does it work? Yes! The easiest way to explain how is that these songs not only have a timeless quality, but they are the kinds of songs that you can imagine hearing other people singing. Tunes such as “Dig Two Graves,” “Things You Left Out In The Rain,” “Spring Cleaning In The Wintertime,” “It Wasn’t Even Fun While It Lasted” and the title track, have potential standard stamped all over them.
Provincetown-based Anne Stott returns with Love Never Dies (annestott.com), her first full-length album since 2010’s Pennsylvania. A more experimental release than its predecessor, the disc opens with the instrumental “And Then” and includes the almost nine-minute “Light Breaks,” featuring Harshal Tole on tabla.
By Gregg Shapiro