Indigo Girls

By - Oct 1st, 2006 02:52 pm
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By Jon M. Gilbertson

Despite Our Differences
As cult artists go, The Indigo Girls are perhaps halfway between Richard Thompson and The Ramones. Unlike Thompson, Amy Ray and Emily Saliers have had a couple of hits (although the big ones go back a decade and a half); like him, they have a dependable core audience. Like The Ramones, they have not been encouraged to vary their identifiable style; unlike The Ramones, they cannot claim to have invented, or at any rate, popularized it.

For The Indigo Girls, this tricky situation means that minor distinctions take on magnified importance: one disastrous track throws an entire album out of whack, but absolute familiarity breeds boredom if not outright contempt. Under the circumstances, Despite Our Differences is a qualified success.

As usual, Ray slips into the role as the plainer singer and more direct thinker of the two (the driving “Money Made You Mean” represents her side), with Saliers being the more sweetly melodic and more poetic (the waltzing “Lay My Head Down” epitomizes her side). Depending on who’s out front, their harmonies have either mid-autumn crispness or mid-spring breeziness.

Really, that’s about it. Pink – returning the kindness the duo paid her by appearing on her album I’m Not Dead earlier this year – juices up the loudest track, “Rock and Roll Heaven’s Gate.” Famed producer Mitchell Froom manages, for once, not to bend the sound toward his quirks. True believers will love it. Casual fans will like it. People outside the cult… who knows?

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