Indigo Girls – Despite Our Differences
by Rikki O.
Amy Ray – Vocals, Guitar, Mandolin, Ukulele
Emily Saliers – Vocals, Guitar, Mandolin, Harmonica
Matt Chamberlain – Drums
Clare Kenny – Bass
Mitchell Froom – Keyboards
I must begin this review with the disclosure that I have loved the Indigo Girl’s music with a distinct and ever present madness since I was a child. Certain songs in their catalog have over the years left indelible imprints on the story of my life; listening to “Closer To Fine” my first week at college while staring out of my dorm room at all the students wandering below, sobbing over my first broken heart with “Romeo and Juliet” on repeat for hours, belting out “Least Complicated” through the laughter and wind blowing over me on a road trip along the Carolina coast, and while the list could continue on I will be merciful and leave memory lane alone for the moment. There is just something about the intimacy of their words and the sincerity in their voices leaves no room in the listener for masks or facades; they remind you that after all the artifice has fallen away, there is still something worthy of redemption in all of us.
“Despite Our Differences” is the tenth studio album for Amy and Emily; it was released in late 2006 on their new label Hollywood Records after completing their contract with Epic after 17 long and prolific years. The move has proven to be a refreshing change as their melodies and songwriting seem more energized and vibrant than ever; producer Mitchell Froom flew them to
Guest vocals from Pink (on the awesome “Rock And Roll Heaven’s Gate”) and Brandi Carlile (“Last Tears”) infuse a vitality into what is already one the most potent albums the Indigo Girls have released in the past decade. Emily shines on the first of seven tracks written by her (to six by Amy Ray) called “Pendulum Swinger”, a song sung to an idealistic friend waiting for her chance to turn the tables on our war-hungry patriarchal culture. She also pens my personal favorite song from the album, “I Believe In Love” which is classic Indigo Girls at their finest. Amy Ray’s “Dirt And Dead Ends” is perhaps the most heartbreaking of all, watching as someone she cares for falls apart beyond salvation while “All that time you were telling me/you were fine/Silly man.”
The Indigo Girls, to me, are among the most achingly poetic and relevant songwriters in contemporary folk rock. Capturing perfectly the brutal messiness of love on “Run”: “You don’t want me calling you up/All melancholy sick from love/You prefer it uncomplicated/Things are tricky now and I bet you hate it.” or the solidarity required for social change in “Rock And Roll Heaven’s Gate”: “Where I come up, we share the mortar and the glue/And what we build together, we share that, too/And the wind may come, and the rain may fall/but we stand together or we don’t stand at all.” both Emily and Amy have grown more poetically succinct over the years at saying precisely what they mean to say.
I’ve had “Despite Our Differences” now for over a year and I never get tired of it. It is perfect driving music; melodious anthems for feelin’ free, inspired, and ready to change the world. The Indigo Girls continue to fight the good fight for the causes they believe in, and they challenge their listeners to do the same – anything less begins to feel like a betrayal when faced so fully with humankind’s potential and the simple magnificence of being alive.