Legendary lesbian duo’s signature styles perfectly mesh on”‘Differences’
“Despite Our Differences”
Over the 20 years of recording together, life has changed immeasurably for Amy Ray and Emily Saliers. No longer young upstarts hoping to reintroduce folk-rock, Indigo Girls are now considered pillars: Their trademark harmonies have set the standard for two-part vocals.
Remarkably, one thing that hasn’t changed about the Indigo Girls has been their sound. Though in weaker moments, they’ve taken detours, the pair always return to their homey roots. Nowhere is this more evident than
on their 10th studio album, “Despite Our Differences.”
Surprisingly cohesive, this latest effort finds the duo comfortable in their musical skins. Emotional and intelligent, it’s one of their best works.
Much has been made of Ray and Saliers’ dueling songwriting styles. They each draw from different inspirations: Ray tending toward punk-rock flourishes; Saliers nursing bluegrass and country.
With the exception of two tracks obviously penned by Ray the bluesy “Rock And Roll Heaven’s Gate” and the grungy electric “They Won’t Have Me” these songs could have easily been written by either songwriter.
Only the lead vocals offer a clue as to the authorship, like the feisty opener, “Pendulum Swinger,” or the touching ballad “I Believe In Love.” As usual, the pair’s harmonies are spot-on, with Ray and Saliers finishing each other’s phrases. Exotic instruments are smartly left out in favor of more typical guitars, mandolins, piano and organ.
Thoughtful, defiant and endearing, “Despite Our Differences” would make an excellent introduction to the Indigo Girls if there were anyone left who hadn’t heard of this legendary duo. For those who may have missed what Saliers and Ray have been up to lately, this album will do very nicely. While 20 years may seem like a long time to go without a dramatic shift in style, it’s a testament their brilliance that that change has never been necessary.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, September 15, 2006.