Come On Now Social

Indigo Girls

Epic Records, 1999

http://www.indigogirls.com

REVIEW BY: Duke Egbert

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 10/04/1999

The back photo of the booklet to the new Indigo Girls CD Come On Now Social says it all. It's a simple photo of Amy Ray and Emily Saliers, standing in a cornfield -- but for the first time, they don't look like twentysomethings with guitars. There are lines around their eyes, honest lines, and something in their eyes you might call wisdom. Welcome to middle age. But if you think they've lost a step because of it, you have another think coming.

For Come On Now Social, the Indigos recorded with new studio musicians including two members of Ghostland, Sinead O'Connor's Celtic-tinged backing band. The album was also produced by one of those two, drummer John Reynolds, and his influence shows in the punch of the percussion felt throughout the album. The past muddiness that occasionally plagued the Indigos is gone; the sound is crisp, clear, and complex, almost bracing in its diversity. The Celtic sound of Reynolds and cellist Caroline Dale merges seamlessly with the Indigos' Southern and Appalachian melodies.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Politically, there are no apologies on this CD. It is unabashedly activist and unswervingly opinionated; stands that in the past have been veiled are fully out, if you'll pardon the pun. The CD booklet even includes a list of causes to support, and the music demands action: "Go" is an anthem to the current generation, a musical incitement to get off your ass and do something. That hard edge continues in the martial "Trouble", the rich harmonies of "We Are Together", the grunge grind of "Compromise" with Me'Shell Ngedocello's growling bass and Kate Schellenbach's (of Luscious Jackson) fierce drum line, and the funny and sad "Cold Beer And Remote Control", the kind of song Bruce Springsteen could still write if he wasn't so busy trying to be Bob Dylan.

Come On Now Social also has a softer side, and it's a pleasure to listen to. "Soon To Be Nothing"; the rollicking mandolin of "Gone Again"; "Ozilline", a tribute to Amy's grandmother guest-starring Garth Hudson and Rick Danko of The Band; and the dark, unsettling "Sister".

A special nod has to go to "Peace Tonight", with its swinging horn section (yes, I said horns), a funny, touching love song in the middle of this monolith of social consciousness. It's a desperately needed contrast, and it works.

Come On Now Social closes with the eerie, almost disturbing "Faye Tucker", the story in song of the first woman executed in Texas since the Civil War. The haunting, wailing background vocals of Arabic guest vocalist Natacha Atlas play up the bitter twist of the lyrics ("If you live they're gonna make you a campaigner / If you die they're gonna make you a grave..."), bringing a brilliant piece of musical work to its end, the final coda and reprise of "Sister" a shadowy punctuation and climax. (And yes, there's a hidden track. It's nice, but nothing to write home about, and was frankly anticlimactic. One small flaw in what is otherwise perfection.)

This review has presented some difficulties in rating. I gave Shaming Of The Sun an A- this summer, but Come On Now Social is a marked improvement. Then again, if the Indigos can get better, I'm not sure my heart could take it anyway.

Rating: A

User Rating: B


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© 1999 Duke Egbert and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Epic Records, and is used for informational purposes only.