Indigo Girl Amy Ray cuts loose on live CD
As the more rocking half of Indigo Girls, Amy Ray has been taming her fiery impulses in favor of wide appeal. As a soloist, however, she’s a punk-loving rebel and a smart songwriter.
Over the course of two solo discs, “Stag” and “Prom,” Ray fused powerful messages with rocking beats. For her third, she lets it all hang out, a recording of a single night’s show in Knoxville, Tenn. Grungy and passionate, “Live From Knoxville” is a rough-edged gem. And what the live album lacks in acoustics, Ray counterbalances with spirit.
On the Web site for her Daemon Records label, Ray admits that last-minute equipment trouble was partially responsible for the lo-fi sonic character of “Live from Knoxville.” Recorded on a paltry four tracks versus the more traditional eight to 18, the raw material leaves little room for mistakes. And though mistakes are rare, they’re there, from howling microphone feedback to off-key backup vocals. If anything, these real-life concert moments add character to a rollicking jam.
Ray announces that the Knoxville gig is the tour’s last stop. Before a gung-ho crowd, Ray and her band, The Volunteers, plow through a tight set of 10 upbeat cuts from “Stag” and “Prom.” And The Volunteers are captured in an appropriately loose mood.
With the discipline of a bar act, Ray and crew seem to enjoy themselves more as their grooves get sloppier. At the end of a carefree rendition of “Driver Education,” you can even hear Ray mumble, “That was fun.”
Other standouts include the defiant “Rural Faggot,” the angry and chilling “Laramie” and the triumphant anthem “Let It Ring.”
The record closes with two bonus tracks performed in San Francisco, with lesbian punk trio The Butchies. Like the rest of “Live From Knoxville,” these songs have a freewheeling vibe that only benefits their interpretation.
Rollout for “Live From Knoxville” has already begun online, with a limited run of autographed discs slated for release through Daemon’s Web site next month. And while a lack of new material may make this album feel like a secondary release, Ray’s passion and style make this album a winner.
DALLAS’ BEST GAY GIG OF 2006
Erasure threw everyone for a loop when they released “Union Street” this year. Celebrating 21 years as the epitome of synth-pop, Vince Clarke and Andy Bell unplugged and went acoustic. Their May 7 gig at the Lakewood Theater was a sit-down affair and a gorgeous trip down memory lane. With a eight-piece back-up band featuring dobro, banjo, pedal steel and 12-string guitars, Erasure never sounded more organic and it was beautiful. If you missed the show, you missed out big time.
Daniel A. Kusner
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, December 29, 2006.