Indigo Girls | Look Long | (Rounder)
4.5 stars out of five
The Indigo Girls have always been the essence of a populist band. Their legion of followers are rabidly devoted, reflecting a bond that runs deeper than the music itself and suggests an actual communal connection. There’s no need to tweak their template, although with five years since their last album and 31 since their first, one has to admire their determination in stay true to their MO. Amongst several standouts, the reggae flavored title track and the bubbly yet infectious twosome “Favorite Flavor” and “Muster” could be perceived as a slight change in tack, but given their affirmative anthems and positive perspective there’s every reason to believe that their devotees will be well pleased with the results. The uplifting anthem “When We Were Writers,” the searing stance of the absolute rocker “Change My Heart” (read our “Behind the Song of Change My Heart”) and the soaring crescendo of the dynamic and demonstrative closer “Sorrow and Joy” — a not-so-distant cousin to their classic “Galileo” — ought to be enough to entice fans to sing along once the pair are able to return to the road.
Indeed, with few exceptions, Look Long comes across as a decidedly upbeat album, one that still shares sentiment and expresses the pair’s need to share passion and purpose. If there’s any change at all, it’s found in the sonic tapestry that embellishes these songs. Credit producer John Reynolds, who recorded the women at Peter Gabriel’s Real World Studio, for a steady presence behind the boards — a place he last occupied when he was overseeing the Girls’ landmark Come On Now Social. Reynolds allows the music to resonate with enough of a luster and sheen to ensure these buoyant melodies will come fully to the fore. Only enough, that additive also helps the album attain a looser feeling than the Indigos have expressed before.
Of course, Ray and Saliers have never demurred when it comes to expressing both creativity and conviction, especially when it comes to causes relating to LGBT rights, political positioning, immigration reform, education, death penalty reform, and sustainability in Native communities.
And yet, their noble aspirations aside, titling the lead track “Shit Kickin’” does take a bit of chutzpah all on its own.
That’s an additive the Indigo Girls have never found in short supply throughout their 35-year career. Ironically though, the most assertive offering in the entire set may be one of its sweetest and most sedate as well. “Country Radio,” a song by Saliers, reflects the essence of desire and dedication. It finds the two harmonizing to a lyric that Saliers says is essentially autobiographical. “I’m just a gay kid who loves country radio,” she sings, and given that dedication to the cause, the line isn’t shocking at all. They have much to be proud of, not the least of which is reflected by this decidedly farsighted Look Long.