Decades into their career, the Indigo Girls still amaze conventional pundits with their ability to grow and thrive no matter what the state of the music industry is at any given point. Emily Saliers and Amy Ray began performing together in high school, transferred their honest, urgent performing style onto the stages of countless small clubs, then saw their public profile take off with the 1989 release of their self-titled breakthrough (an album that included the first hit, “Closer To Fine,” and went on to win Best Contemporary Folk Recording at the 1990 Grammys).
The duo’s constant touring, as well as staunch dedication to a number of social and environmental causes, has earned them a fervidly devoted following over the years. So many artists who launched their careers in the late 1980s have slipped from our collective memory. In contrast, the Indigo Girls stand tall, having earned the lasting respect and devotion of a multi-generational audience, which continues to experience their creative evolution in the studio and on stage.
On their fourteenth studio album, Grammy-winning folk-rock duo Indigo Girls deliver a beautifully crafted batch of songs that revel in spirited simplicity. Alternating richly textured storytelling with moody ruminations on modern-world worries, Beauty Queen Sister (released in 2011 on IG Recordings) reveals a fierce longing for a more idyllic existence while still celebrating the extraordinary in everyday living. Thanks to its graceful mix of openhearted songwriting and lush, intricate arrangements—not to mention powerful performances by the band and their brigade of guest musicians—Beauty Queen Sister ultimately allows the listener to slip into the sort of dreamy serenity that Amy Ray and Emily Saliers sing of striving for throughout the record.
Beauty Queen Sister is the fourth Indigo Girls album released on IG Recordings, the independent label that Ray and Saliers launched after putting out nine albums on Epic Records and one (2006’s widely acclaimed Despite Our Differences) on Hollywood Records. While the loss of major-label spending power might cripple less accomplished artists, both Ray and Saliers find that their tightened budget actually feeds the album-making process. “Nowadays we need to record much more quickly, so there’s not time to belabor every little decision like we did in our earlier years,” says Ray. “We just put our heads down and throw all our emotion into it and it’s magical—the heart rules our performance more than the head.”
For Ray and Saliers, Beauty Queen Sister—like each new musical endeavor they embark on—offers a fresh opportunity for exploration and discovery. “We really work hard to not lean on any tried-and-true path in making our albums,” says Ray. “So when it comes to writing new songs and working with different musicians, every record feels like a completely different adventure for us.”
For the Indigo Girls, that adventure may take the form of an adrenaline-fueled live CD or a warm, reflective holiday album or a collection of songs that can veer from raucous to intimate in the blink of an eye. No matter where their creative journey takes them, they hold out a hand to their listeners and we get to feel it all.
Indigo Girls Recording Career includes fourteen studio records, three live records and three greatest hits compilations:
- seven gold records
- four reaching platinum
- one reaching double platinum
- cumulative sales in excess of 12 million records
- seven Grammy nominations, one win