Amy Ray/If It All Goes South/Daemon Records
Four out of Five Stars
Amy Ray is on a good roll lately. Recently accorded a lifetime achievement award for her efforts as part of the Indigo Girls, and a proud mom as well, she can also revel in the release of her seventh solo album, a dynamic set of songs that gives her an identity of her own, even as the Indigos continue to enjoy their own success. Ray isn’t reticent about venturing out on her own, purveying a sound that’s markedly different from the approach she takes with her day job, but equally emphatic all on its own.
That’s evident at the outset with the tenacious trappings of “Joy Train” and later, the country twang that permeates “Cowboys and Pirates.” Ray is an astute observer of the human condition, and there’s little that escapes her gaze. Nevertheless, she doesn’t shy away from more tender trappings, as evidenced by the easy pace and gentle ramble of “Chuck Will’s Widow,” the wistful reflection that illuminates “From This Room,” the quiet repose found in “Muscadine,” and the elegiac enchantment of “They Won’t Have Me.” No matter what the tone or tempo, Ray clearly possesses an emotional clarity as well as the innate ability to shift the settings, a skill that results in a varied set of songs that can be, by degrees, both tender and tempestuous.
Nevertheless, Ray finds her focus consistently. She was aided by an impressive list of fellow travelers, among them, Brandi Carlile, the trio I’m With Her (Sarah Jarosz, Aoife O’Donovan, and Sara Watkins), Natalie Hemby, Allison Russell, and H.C. McEntire, but regardless, Ray’s ability to steer the proceedings with all original material, adds credence and conviction. If It All Goes South may portend an ominous attitude, but clearly the end results demonstrate the fact that she’s steering clear of any perilous possibilities.
Amy Ray Photo Courtesy Daemon Records