Indigo Girls, Amy Ray and Emily Salier’s eponymously titled second album, was released in 1989. However, it wasn’t until Spring 2000 that I was recommended to listen to it by the Episcopalian priest and indie songwriter, Steven Kalas. It was a wise suggestion on his part as, on my first listening, I was immediately struck not only by the album's musical freshness and vitality, but also by its lyrical maturity and astuteness of vision.
To label the music of the duo as ‘folk rock’ may be accurate in one sense, but it misleads as much as it informs. So too, would be any attempt to describe their music as ‘sapphic’ even though both Ray and Salier self-identify as lesbian, are LGBT(QI+) activists, and have married same-sex partners.
Indigo Girls is about relationships but, even more importantly, it’s about the relationship between vulnerability and inner strength, passion and personal responsibility. Disturbingly honest at times, these songs are nonetheless surprisingly tender and pastoral. Ray and Salier know that women bleed, but also that blood marks, in a real sense, both the vitality and limits of our humanity.
In my view, there isn’t a dud track on this album. However, if pressed for standouts, I would cite ‘Kid Fears’,'Prince of Darkness', ‘Blood and Fire’, ‘History of Us’ (a wonderfully moving epilogue invoking not only the great city of Paris, but also an undisclosed town in Switzerland) as well as the opening track ‘Closer to Fine’.
“...I went to see the doctor of philosophy With a poster of Rasputin and a beard down to his knee He never did marry or see a B-grade movie He graded my performance, he said he could see through me I spent four years prostrate to the higher mind, got my paper And I was free
“And I went to the doctor, I went to the mountains I looked to the children, I drank from the fountains There's more than one answer to these questions Pointing me in a crooked line The less I seek my source for some definitive Closer I am to fine, yeah Closer I am to fine, yeah
“I stopped by the bar at 3 a.m. To seek solace in a bottle or possibly a friend And I woke up with a headache like my head against a board Twice as cloudy as I'd been the night before When I went in seeking clarity” Says it all really!