Out on Their Own

After decades of rocking out together, Indigo Girls shirk the big labels for a DIY venture.

BY Karen Iris Tucker

March 25 2009 12:00 AM ET

When Amy Ray and Emily
Saliers first offered up their guileless lyrics, braided
harmonies, and fevered acoustic strums in Atlanta's Little Five
Points pub in the mid '80s, the ladies in the audience
appreciatively tossed bras and underwear at their feet. Pop
culture has since had its fickle way with their careers, but
Indigo Girls are nevertheless icons to a core of lesbian fans
who through the years have comingled with frat boys and
neo-hippies as they all pumped fists in the air at shows to the
duo's signature song "Closer to Fine."

Much has happened since
that single from their self-titled album launched Indigo Girls
to mainstream notoriety in 1989. Nine major-label studio
releases later, the pair is at a crossroads, independently
issuing their most recent imprint,
Poseidon and the Bitter Bug

, after having been dropped from Hollywood Records in 2007,
ostensibly due to poor sales.

Of going indie, Ray,
44, says simply, "It felt liberating." The gravelly
voiced guitarist has always paved her way in DIY subterranean
scenes, both in music and social activism.

Ray is seated in an
empty barroom of West Hollywood's still-shuttered Troubadour
club, dark eyes staring intently. Ahead of the current Indigo
Girls tour, she paused for an interview during sound check for
a solo show -- part of her eight-year-strong side project on
her own Daemon Records label.

As her drummer Melissa
York of the Butchies pounds away in the other room, Ray
explains that on hearing that she and Saliers had
been dropped from their label, famed producer and
keyboardist Mitchell Froom "was like, 'I'm still
in. Pay me whatever you can.'"

Ray says that generous
spirit reigned when, to save money, the act began a breakneck
three-week recording stretch for
Poseidon

, with bassist Clare Kenny, drummer Matt Chamberlain, and
engineer David Boucher on board. The resulting 10-track set
(paired with a second CD of stripped-down acoustic versions of
the same songs, plus one bonus cut) has an unencumbered
breeziness to it -- this despite its decidedly contemplative
subject matter. The opening track, Saliers's "Digging
for Your Dream," is a portrait of domestic abuse featuring
the trenchant line "And you bloody your hands digging for
your dreams."

Longtime listeners will
note that Ray continues to build on her discussion of gender in
the tender ballad "True Romantic," asking,
"Would I still be the girl that suits your fancy? / Would
I still be the boy that rocks your world?"

Of that duality, Ray
explains, "I've struggled to really honor the girl [in
me]. The boy is easy to honor -- that's mostly what I
am."

Tags: Music

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