After nearly 30 years, the Indigo Girls have achieved far more than their limited musical palette might have initially promised. After all, unless you’re Simon and Garfunkel or the Milk Carton Kids, deft duos with folk finesse generally boast limited commercial possibilities. Better suited to twilight sing-alongs or more intimate encounters, dual guitar and vocal pairings rarely pack the potential for rousing arena-style revelry.
That said, the Indigo Girls deserve credit for consistency. With a staunch fan following and a well-stocked catalog that’s of consistently high quality, Amy Ray and Emily Saliers have never faltered when it comes to inspiration or involvement as far as their various social and political causes are concerned. Populist pundits long before the term was invented, they maintain a special bond with their devotees, many of whom embrace alternative lifestyles and differing sexual preferences.
Nevertheless, after some 30 years, it would seem reasonable to suggest that Ray and Saliers have thoroughly mined their folk rock pastiche. Consequently, any new disc by the duo tends to make observers wonder whether they can adhere to their template without resulting to redundancy. Happily then, One Lost Day largely succeeds on both counts, although the conflicting themes of love and loss, heartache and happiness retrace familiar terrain. As always, the music is etched in a comfortable calico embrace, with a whiff of patchouli wafting in from the wings. Softer sentiments mingle with fierce determination, creating the sturdy sound that the Indigos are well known for.
Still, a well-stocked catalog is bound to bring comparisons between earlier efforts and the current crop of offerings. It’s so natural in fact that it may bring cause for concern. Granted, there’s no obvious anthem like “Galileo” among these 13 songs, but several boast the kind of muscle that fires up the faithful. “Elizabeth” and “Olympia Inn” find the pair solidly stoked, while the sturdy riffing in “Happy in the Sorrow Key” actually brings a Bangles comparison. Naturally, there’s plenty of yearning, heartfelt ballads, with “If I Don’t Leave Here Now,” “Alberta” and “Texas Was Clean” spotlighting the vocal blend that’s so essential to their sound.
In the past, the pair’s ambitions have never exceeded their reach and the same could be said of this latest effort as well. Resilient rockers ought to ensure their audiences’ enthusiasm, especially in the live settings where their songs still play best. With the exception of the aforementioned “Happy in the Sorrow Key” they continue to purvey their signature sound with little need for distraction. Besides, both Saliers and Ray maintain solo careers where the ability to veer to other extremes is not only permitted but encouraged. However as One Lost Day steadfastly affirms, they’re never better than when they’re working in tandem. Consequently, a certain amount leeway is merited. This is a fine example of essential Indigos, and while it doesn’t push the parameters, it’s easily the equal of anything they’ve done before. That in itself becomes cause for celebration, because here again, the Indigos excel.