Even within such a broad church as Americana, “whatever that is”, as No Depression magazine accurately put it aeons ago, some may be exercised as to whether or not Indigo Girls qualify or should instead fit into folk, folk-rock, alt.something or other or whatever the latest pigeonhole is called. As far as this writer is concerned however Indigo Girls are Americana; what particular flavour is for discussion by those who enjoy dancing on the head of a pin.
Although their first album, 1987’s independently released ‘Strange Fire’, sold respectably enough amongst the cognoscenti, it was with their 1989 eponymous major label debut second that Amy Ray and Emily Saliers burned themselves into the collective Americana consciousness and indeed beyond. It was a multi-platinum seller without a weak track on it but the keynote song, and one that sums up what they were, are and always will be about, was ‘Closer To Fine’, a song written by Saliers about the search for personal growth. In the three decades since it appeared it has become their anthem, and one that has reached far beyond their fanbase. They always close their shows with it and these days the audience sings the entire thing and the duo just play and occasionally lead. It encapsulates what is so great about their music in three short minutes. Personal yet universal lyrics that touch everyone who hears them, a strong message, a great tune and a big chorus, it’s well-nigh perfect.
Since then there have been many more albums, songs and concerts. A real sense of community between the duo and their fans has developed that is unlike that of other artists, as attendance at any of their live shows can attest. They have been open and up front with their support for numerous good causes in both song and deed without ever being preachy, tiresome or, heaven forfend, worthy. Nor are they mere one-trick political ponies as a listen to songs like ‘Power Of Two’ (from ‘Swamp Ophelia’) or ‘Lay My Head Down’ (‘Despite Our Differences’), to pick just two, demonstrates.
Three decades plus on their powers show no sign of waning. Their voices fit together as well as they ever did, alternately swooping and soaring, always honest, always true, and perhaps even getting better with age. There is still nobody quite like them and whether they’re rocking, popping, folking or something else they’re always worth listening to. “Essential” is an over-used word but here it most definitely applies.
The Career: Fourteen studio albums, two live albums, seven Grammy nominations with three wins.
Key Release: For the presence of ‘Closer To Fine’ it has to be their second, eponymous album but 2012’s ‘The Essential Indigo Girls’, a thirty-seven track compilation has all their best songs up to that point. Latest outing is 2015’s ‘One Lost Day’.
Normally there’s just one video posted for each act in this A-Z series but here we need two. First up is the original promo for ‘Closer To Fine’, and second is a live version recorded in London a couple of years ago.