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Indigo Girls: Indigo Girls

Amy Ray and Emily Saliers of Indigo Girls (photo by Terry Allen)

Amy Ray and Emily Saliers of Indigo Girls (photo by Terry Allen)

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Album ReCue, a part of FUV's EQFM initiative, takes an on-air and online look back at influential releases by women that altered our perspective not only of the artist, but her invaluable impact on music history. Above, listen to a conversation with Alisa Ali and Rita Houston about Indigo Girls' 1989 self-titled second album and major label debut and below, Laura Fedele's overview.

If you have any CDs, albums or cassettes left at home, you have this one, so pull it out. Take a look at that track list. These songs are 30 years old, but they’ve never gone away: they’ve woven themselves into our lives, our friendships and relationships, they’ve entwined themselves into our memories, they’re part of our conversations, to this day.

“Closer to Fine”: Once you hear that first line, “I’m trying to tell you something about my life…” the rest will play through in your head, an internal version of the sing-along that Amy Ray and Emily Saliers kicked off in 1989. Now they can’t leave a stage without playing it, and every time, we just hope they don’t get tired of it, tired of hearing us all drown them out.

This second collection of their 16 studio albums (and counting) is the one that broke things open for Indigo Girls, took them out of Georgia cafes and put them on the road to Madison Square Garden. Indigo Girls sold steadily for years, reaching double platinum status gradually, as one fan told their friends, who told their friends, and so on.

What is it that drew so many people in? First, there is the deep intimacy of what they wrote, actually therapy-deep examinations of selves and relationships, those big ideas in direct yet poetic language. Then there is the beauty, of the melodies and the playing and of the harmonies that elevate those honest lyrics, and of their voices together. There is also the balance: The dark and light, the bold and shy that we all feel, some days leaning a little Amy, sometimes a little more Emily.

As Ray put it back in ‘89, “Sometimes you feel melodramatic about things and sometimes you don't. I feel I let whatever is in my system out.” Their longtime friend, artist Michelle Malone, told Stereogum about Indigo Girls: “[That album] is now a classic largely because it captured the essence of that thing Amy and Emily have always done so well: vocal harmony weaving through well-written, sincere songs.”

What would you give for your kid fears, in our ailing and divided world? “Every time you find yourself, you lose a little bit of me.” “Fasten up your earthly burdens, you have just begun.” “Did you try to be true? What separates me from you?”

We’ve said this all before, but the influence of this extraordinary pair of women has bloomed in the hearts of artists (Brandi Carlile, Bon Iver, and every folk singer since) and activists (LGBTQ+ advocacy, immigration, indigenous rights, the death penalty) since they heard this duo, this album.

Throw it on the old-school stereo and sing your heart out.

This Friday, August 7, listen to a new "Marquee Live at Home" concert from Indigo Girls, supporting their 16th album, Look Long. The set will air during Rita Houston's "The Whole Wide World" at 8pm ET.

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WFUV's EQFM Album ReCue: Indigo Girls' Indigo Girls

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