Indigo Girls see the past clearly on Look LongSalem Collo-Julinon May 29, 2020 at 5:20 pm

Singer-songwriters Amy Ray and Emily Saliers have been playing folk-rock guitar and singing harmonies together since the early 80s, when they were high school students in Decatur, Georgia. In 1985, they began performing as the Indigo Girls, and their earnest lyrics and dual guitars earned them a loyal and dedicated fan base that grew exponentially after the 1988 release of their self-titled second album (which was also their major-label debut). An Indigo Girls concert can feel like a fun night at summer camp: nearly everyone sings along. Their new 15th studio album, Look Long, doesn’t stray far from the template that the duo has established, but why mess with a formula that’s worked for so long? Most of the songs on Look Long highlight the perspectives of middle-aged people reviewing their pasts with wistful affection: “When We Were Writers,” for instance, is a heavy-handed, nostalgic ode to being young, creative, and “pulling all-nighters.” I’m especially taken with the bittersweet ballad “Country Radio,” where Saliers draws on her experience growing up gay in 1970s Georgia. The protagonist (whose gender is carefully unspecified) says that every night after a shift at the mall food court, they listen to country songs about idyllic boy-girl romances and get swept away in the stories–even though the songs are selling a heterosexual fantasy that isn’t for them. “I want to know what it’s like to fall in love / Like most of the rest of the world,” Saliers sings. “I’m just a gay kid in a small town / Who loves country radio.” Look Long is filled with the sort of didactic lyrics that folk rockers with their hearts on their sleeves can’t resist (and for which they’re often derided). But I’m grateful that the Indigo Girls are still laying it all out there–there’s always a small-town kid who needs to hear it. v

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