Amy Ray Band | photo by Ashley Gellman for WXPN
XPN Fest: Amy Ray closes the weekend sans Sailers in stellar solo performance
The Indigo Girls are incredibly prolific. The duo of Amy Ray and Emily Sailers have been around for nearly 35 years, making politically driven folk-rock. So when a pair is that well known, it can be hard for each member’s solo project to find success. However, Amy Ray is an anomaly. She has found the time to release six solo studio albums while continuing to make music with Sailers. On Sunday night, Amy Ray played a stellar festival-closing performance at the XPNFest waterfront stage.
Amy Ray opened her set with “The Rock is my Foundation,” stopping throughout her performance to introduce her band members. Introductions often began with “y’all,” her Georgian roots shining through, and included each member’s hometown. Her warmth is infectious, and it is clear she very much values the time of her compatriots. Her band consists of Jeff Fielder on guitar, Adrienne Carter on fiddle, Matt Smith on peddle steel, Jim Brock on drums, Allison Brown on banjo, and Gary West also on bass — all of whom shined throughout.
Seeing Amy Ray live is quite the experience. Her performance ran a tad longer than an hour because she takes the time to speak earnestly to her audience. She mentioned her 5-year-old daughter’s obsession with Incredibles 2, her inspiration for “Duane Allman” coming from a drunk conversation, and in only true Indigo Girls fashion moved into some brief political discussion.
Being from Georgia, Amy Ray has starkly different politics than most of the red state. However, she mentions some diamonds in the rough: Stacy Abrams, Jimmy Carter, John Lewis, and of course Little Nas X (whose t-shirt she wore).
The real shining stars of Amy Ray’s performances were her political pieces. The sheer passion in her voice is present, but not nearly as compelling in her apolitical tunes. “Jesus Was a Walking Man” and “Rise of the Black Messiah” marked Amy Ray at her best. The latter of which songs served as a commentary on the controversial Angola 3 case, the anger in Ray’s voice is poignant.
As to liven up the mood after some heavy stuff, Amy Ray played “Bus Bus,” what she dubbed a “party song.” She also decided to close up the night with a cover of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers uptempo tune, “Refugee.”
Before she trotted off stage, Amy Ray made sure to thank XPN, “for giving this old dyke a chance.” However, no chances were taken on Ray, who has consistently proven over the years that she knows how to command an audience. While she maintains that Indigo Girls and her solo project are “two different worlds,” she shines in both.
The Rock Is My Foundation
Sure Feels Good Anyway
Tonight I’m Paying The Rent
Oyster and Pearl
Oh City Man
Jesus Was A Walking Man
Rise of the Black Messiah
Didn’t Know A Damn Thing