I still find it hard to believe that it's been nearly 10 years since the release of "Swamp Ophelia", and it's still a recurring theme in my personal playlist. Before I purchased the CD, I'd had a passing interest in the Indigo Girls, but I'd heard Amy Ray's song "Fugitive" used as a backdrop for modern dance, and I was hooked.
Today, this still remains my favorite of their CD's; little of it is socio-political, like much of their work. I can even forgive the use of one of the light ballads "The Power of Two" in the soundtrack of one of those forgettable Drew Barrymore movies.
Like most Indigo Girl collections, the music varies between the emotional ballads and light folk songs of positivity that are Emily Saliers, and the darker, more brooding rhythms of melancholy Amy Ray. One thing never varies, and that it the crisp and pure quality of their vocal harmonies; they are perfectly matched. They utilize a variety of folk instruments (cello, acousic guitar, different drums and bongs, the mandolin) and a variety of friends helping with lyrics and vocals to blend this collection into something memorable.
Fugitive may be my favorite of all Ray's songs, but the pace, tempo, and lyrics to her "Reunion" keep the first side of the CD flowing....
"I don't want you to feel
It feels so funny to be free"
The song feels like a treatise on psychological care - perhaps Ray drew it from her background, or that of a friend. Ray's "Dead Man's Hill" on side two is another show stopper, with an amazing mix of sounds, and loaded with interesting percussion. Dead Man's Hill feels like a place and time revisited from Ray's youth - it starts out with friendship, but there's a scary, cold feeling to the closing lyrics of the song.
Not a big fan of Amy Ray's lyrics, there is only one song on the CD that I dislike, and it closes the first side -"Touch Me Fall". It's a tirade of a song, notable for the fact that the "swamp Ophelia" title is chosen from its lyrics.
I'm much more partial to Salier's songs than those of Ray, and there is not one on this CD that isn't inspired. Judging from the reaction to the IG songs in concert, apparently many fans, in addition to me, love "Least Complicated", a song that is truly uncomplicated and joyous in its rhythms and lyrics. It always draws a cheer at live performances, and the whole audience sings along....
"I'm just a mirror of a mirror myself
All the things that I do
And the next time I fall
I'm gonna have to recall
It isn't love, it's only something new"
Her ballads, "Wood Song", "Mystery" and "Fare Thee Well" are all trademark Saliers, with simple arrangements and notable harmony. Perhaps her best on the CD (although I still play "Least Complicated" at least three times whenever I put in the CD) is "Language or the Kiss", which is one of the standards the duo perfoms when live. Here there's a full sound and instrumentation, with emphasis on percussion. But it is the lyrics that are telling...
"But I'm made mute by the virtue of decision
And I choose...
Most of your life goes on without me.
Oh, the fear I've known
That I might reap the praise of strangers
And end up on my own".
If you purchase only one disc of the Indigo Girl's music, don't go for one of the hits compilations, because you miss so much of the texture of where they were when they wrote the tunes that fit together in a single CD. "Swamp Ophelia" transcends time and talent, and obviously, lasts a decade. Wonder if it will last a lifetime with me?
Bravo, Emily and Amy!