By Scott Roberts
Though Amy Ray is rightfully considered the more rock ‘n’ roll half of Atlanta’s beloved Indigo Girls (with Emily Saliers known more for the prettier songs), she’s also capable of flexing her melodic muscles, and she does so on her latest CD, Lung of Love, her sixth solo outing in the past 10 years. The ever-prolific Ray seems at home tackling any sort of musical genre that strikes her fancy and the result is another multifaceted slice of tuneful emotionality from the sweetly maturing folk-rocker.
As on her last solo CD, 2008’s Didn’t It Feel Kinder, Ray has opted to work with producer Greg Griffith, and once again, the collaboration has proven fruitful. This time, however, in addition to producing and playing guitar and bass, Griffith has the distinction of co-writing the songs with Ray, something the singer-songwriter has never tried before (her and Saliers have always written separately). In spite of allowing herself to share such an intimate experience as songwriting, the CD fortunately feels no less personal than any of Ray’s other work. Lyrically, the songs touch on such familiar Ray tropes as the difficulties of love (“I Didn’t”), the plight of the downtrodden (the surprisingly uplifting “From Haiti”), and her southern-influenced spirituality (the Appalachian stomper “The Rock Is My Foundation” featuring guest singer Brandi Carlile). Ray also displays a nice mix of the serious, as on “When You’re Gone, You’re Gone,” and the lighthearted, with rocker “Little Revolution,” featuring its “bang, bang, bang” refrain and its proclamation that Ray fans have known for years: “There’s a little Joe Strummer in my DNA.”
Amy Ray’s recorded output for 20-plus years, both solo and with the Indigo Girls, has boasted an emotional resonance, lyrical honesty, and musical consistency that few others can claim. Lung of Love continues that consistency and also succeeds to occasionally breathe new life into an artist who has always managed to be comforting and restless at the same time.