The Indigo Girls’ eighth studio album is not quite the back-to-basics record it was originally rumored to be, but it certainly does play to the strengths the duo of Amy Ray and Emily Saliers have developed over their career. Where 1999’s Come On Now Social featured lots of celebrity cameos, the new one is just the Girls and their ace touring band, for the most part. And while there is much less experimental genre-hopping than on the previous effort, don’t come in expecting a return to basic acoustic guitar folk music with lit professor lyrics like the Girls displayed on their early records.
Ray and Saliers each penned six songs for the record. The opening track and first single, “Moment Of Forgiveness,” is effortless, soulful pop music. This may be Ray’s best vocal ever, and it’s certainly much less dark than some of her songs on recent efforts. Add to that the Girls’ beautiful trademark harmonies and a touch of organ and electric piano from Carol Isaacs to round it nicely into shape. Ray’s mandolin-driven “Yield” is an infectious, upbeat toe-tapper. “When you’re three days down the highway/And you’re lookin’ like I feel/And it takes a lot to keep it goin’/It takes a lot to keep it real/Take some time for yourself/And learn to yield,” she sings. Ray also offers the backwoods-y, slide guitar-fueled “Biter Root” and the minor key gem “Starkville.”
Saliers’ songs are, as usual, generally more contemplative and complex, with lots of overlapping vocals and poetic pseudo-profundities. Saliers wears out her welcome a bit by the time the cloying “She’s Saving Me” rolls around. It may send you running for the nearest AC/DC album. But her vocals seem to have added versatility on this record, curving nicely around the notes on “Collecting You,” the soaring “Hope Alone,” and “Our Deliverance.” “Beneath my window a mournful train that makes me smile at my bad poetry,” she sings on the latter. “But beneath my surface/A song is rising/And it may be simple when it hides its true intent/We may be looking for our deliverance/But it has already been sent.”
Peter Collins produced the disc, as he did 1992’s Rites Of Passage and 1994’s Swamp Ophelia. He seems to get the best out of the Girls’ stellar harmonies, Saliers’ finger-picked classical guitar, and other elements. But Brady Blade’s drums sound particularly great in the mix.
No, the Indigos’ latest may not be a return to the sound of old. But it would be foolish to think they could go back, knowing everything they know now. Become You is instead a very becoming vision of the Indigo Girls circa 2002. Anyone who appreciates their unique talents should be pleased.