Despite the occasional political prattle that earned this Marietta, Ga. duo the well-deserved “Indignant Girls” tag, the Indigo Girls continue to produce genuinely compelling music, complete with an intellectual spine. After expanding the group dynamics on the electric guitar-laden Swamp Ophelia, troubadours Amy Ray and Emily Sailers return on Shaming of the Sun with an experimental batch of dreamy rock tunes.
For sure, issues rife with politics and human rights rear their heads here; it wouldn’t be an Indigo Girls album without a couple of earnestly placed diatribes. The group confronts intolerance on the seethingly defiant It’s Alright. Backed by bassist Sara Lee, drummer Jerry Marotta’s stampeding rhythm section and Ray’s smart guitar smacks, Sailers lays down the higher law like a riverside preacher: “And it’s alright if you hate that way, hate me cause I’m different, hate me cause I’m gay/Truth of the matter come around one day, so it’s alright.” The Girls also rally against discrimination suffered by legal/illegal immigrants on Ray’s salsa-flavored “Shame On You” and continue to keep the pressure on America’s white-collar corporate-conservative mentality with the indigenously reverent anti-colonialist themes of “Scooter Boys”.
But the most pointed moments on Shaming of the Sun come from the more tender side of the Indigos’ thematic umbra. Sailers rakes the Crazy Horse-style country guitar coals on the strikingly epic grandeur of “Caramia”, and Ray delivers a hazy sensuality on “Don’t Give That Girl a Gun”. And as a reminder of the folk-rock strengths and harmonies that provided the foundation for the duo’s wide-ranging appeal, Sailers and Ray trek through the blithely romantic “Get Out the Map” like Simon & Garfunkel caught in a pleasant daydream about Joni Mitchell’s playful California coon.
This record’s fusion of acoustic-based rock with rhythm & blues offers the potent suggestion that perhaps audiences haven’t yet seen everything under the Indigo Girls’ sun. In the meantime, it’s worth enjoying this album’s warm spots as we wait and see.