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Indigo Girls Serve Up New Disc Full Of Rarities...Well Done



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Indigo Girls Serve Up New Disc Full Of Rarities...Well Done

By John Voket

Like two perfectly tuned strings, the voices Amy Ray and Emily Saliers continue to ring true more than 20 years after they took up pens and guitars and began writing and performing as the Indigo Girls. If their most recent release, a retrospective of live, unreleased and alternative tracks called Rarities is any evidence, the duo continues to maintain an enviable level of professional success by tapping time-tested formulas of instrumental variations decorated by their tight, alternately haunting and joyful vocal harmonies.

While dates and times are less than precise, it has been well documented that Amy and Emily formally joined forces performing as both the Indigo Girls and The B-Band in and around the exploding rootsy Atlanta and Athens, Ga., music scene in the mid-1980s. By 1986, their fan base started spreading like wildfire thanks to dozens of small club and concert appearances the pair played across the country, including a pair of memorable New Haven appearances at Toad’s Place and on the Elm City Green during those developing years.

Their first self-produced recordings started receiving so much attention at college and alternative radio stations that by 1988, they were invited to sign onto Epic Records. That contract yielded the Indigo Girls first self-titled commercial release in 1989.

Carried by an infectious, sing-along single, “Closer to Fine,” and the darker follow-up, “Kid Fears” featuring REM’s Michael Stipe, that first album solidified Amy and Emily’s fervent fan base and earned them a Grammy for Best Folk Album.

Their independently produced 1987 album Strange Fire was re-released by Epic in the fall of 1991 and included a cover version of “Get Together.” While the Indigo Girls early performances were necessarily overpopulated by cover songs, anyone who acquired the nationally accessible Strange Fire discovered the Indigo Girls could hold their own with inspired original compositions, as well as by crafting unique adaptations of popular folk and rock songs of the era.

Their next two follow-up releases, Nomads, Indians, Saints and a live album, Back on the Bus, Y’all, both earned Grammy nominations as well. Rites of Passage debuted in the Top 25 when it was released in 1992, and thanks to tireless touring and an exploding international fan base, their 1994 release Swamp Ophelia hit number nine on the charts its first day in stores.

Over the succeeding decade, Ray and Saliers collaborated on a double live disc, 1200 Curfews, and studio releases including Shaming of the Sun in 1997, Come on Now Social in 1999, Become You in 2002 and last year’s All that We Let In.

Throughout the last decade, the Indigo Girls have also proven to be one of the most socially conscious musical groups, lending their energy and playing benefit concerts that have earned millions of dollars for initiatives from hunger relief and gun control to environmental and Native American causes.

In fact, their latest local appearance at the June 19 Clearwater Festival in New York helped familiarize several thousand fans with the Hudson River preservation cause founded by folk icon Pete Seeger several years before Ray and Saliers started playing together. Another recent show at The Calvin Theater in Northampton, Mass., showcased several numbers available on Rarities including Ray’s “Let Me Go Easy” and Saliers’ tribute to generations of Massachusetts commercial fishing families, entitled “Winthrop.”

Rarities contains covers of The Clash’s “Clampdown,” Rod Stewart’s “I Don’t Want to Talk About It,” a live version of the Girls’ take on Elton John’s “Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters,” and a rousing studio version of The Grateful Dead’s “Uncle John’s Band.”

“Cold as Ice” borrows its title from the Foreigner hit, but is not a cover of that classic rock anthem. Other songs populating the new retrospective include a demo version of “Ghost,” a thumpy remix of Saliers’ “Free In You,” “Point Hope,” a live version of “Ramblin’ Round,” and a spectacular live rendition of “Finlandia.”

Here’s a tip: by downloading Rarities from Apple’s iTunes, fans can also access two bonus tracks: a live “Gone Again” and a studio acoustic duo mix of “Mystery.”

Hard core and casual Indigo Girls fans alike will find much to celebrate in Rarities, but it is also a great way for uninducted audiences to become familiar with the joyful, powerful and always-harmonious offerings of Amy Ray and Emily Saliers.

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