Saturday, April 27, 2013

The Day The Feminists Took Away My Lilith Fair Tickets . . .

The Good: Some of the lyrics, Moments of voice
The Bad: Maybe I just don't like bluegrass? No, lyrics, music and voice did not impress me.
The Basics: With unmemorable lyrics, unimpressive musical backing, Shaming Of The Sun is a disappointment that is more forgettable than entertaining or enjoyable.

I've been to almost no concerts in my life (thus far). The first concert I went to as an adult was Lilith Fair in 1998 and I went because Heather Nova was performing at it and her album Siren (reviewed here!) had knocked me off my feet. I loved the experience. It was a thrill meeting Heather Nova, watching and listening to Bonnie Raitt, Natalie Merchant, and Sarah McLachlan. It blew me away. So, knowing that the Indigo Girls were generally enjoyed by people who attended Lilith Fair, I decided it was time to give an album of theirs a spin. The first Indigo Girls album I found was Shaming Of The Sun.

It didn't grab me.

I'm a fan of folk music, pop, rock and roll, and generally like my artists progressive and female. In fact, I like Indigo Girls's songs "Galileo" and "Least Complicated" (neither of which are on Shaming Of The Sun. Someone once told me the Indigo Girls are considered bluegrass and maybe that falls just outside what I like. With twelve tracks, Shaming Of The Sun is a socially-conscious album that has a hard root in gospel music. There is a strong sense throughout the album that Amy Rays and Emily Saliers are women of strong faith.

Perhaps that's one of the things that just doesn't fit for me; on "Scooter Boys," Amy Ray rights powerfully about the plight of the Indians with lines like "Scooter boys and Argentineans / Europe shed the blood of the Indian / Here I sit in the land of plenty / Crying about my own virginity." It's strong and socially aware. And what solution comes from this? Turning it over to god, at least on other tracks, "Hey holy console me / Some power controls me" ("Shed Your Skin"). I'm a bit more proactive, I suppose, than letting it all be a matter of the divine moving all of the pieces.

It's that kind of rhetorical and philosophical and lyrical incongruity throughout Shaming Of The Sun that turned me off. There are moments the vocals are exceptional; "Everything In Its Own Time" sounds wonderful with Saliers and Ray harmonizing beautifully in the upper ranges - most of their songs are in the mid-range on this album. "Everything In Its Own Time" stands out as a beautiful vocal presentation. But there, the lyrics did not impress me.

In fact, throughout Shaming Of The Sun, I found myself underwhelmed by the lyrics. From the singsong refrain of "Get Out The Map" ("Get out the map get out the map and lay your finger anywhere down / We'll leave the figuring to those we pass on our way out of town") to the ridiculous rhymes on "Don't Give That Girl A Gun" (clean/mean, cool/fool, smile/mile), the writing did not impress me and I was waiting to be wowed by this group.

Gay, lesbian and bisexual civil rights are important to me and Indigo Girls are touted as being an important part of the movement. On Shaming Of The Sun, they get around to poking at religious discrimination with the song "It's Alright," with lines like "And it's alright (sic) if you hate that way, hate me cause I'm different, hate me cause I'm gay." But the album overall is mildmannered and generally inoffensive with the solutions to the problems of the world being passed along more to the divine than a rally to organize.

In short, on Shaming Of The Sun, Indigo Girls are more likely to pray their way out of problems than organize a posse to march on the political establishments. I'm more for the latter solution myself.

None of the music on Shaming Of The Sun leapt out at me. Primarily composed of guitars and strong up-front vocals, the music on Shaming Of The Sun is indistinct rock in the folk-rock, bluegrass-country border. The guitars are either strummed up tempo for a folk-country sound or are slow in an ambiguous way that puts all of the pressure on the vocals for creating a memorable melody. And they don't. Not this time.

I like folk-rock, but did not enjoy this disc. I suspect those who like gospel music or country might be more grabbed by it, though I can't even recommend it to those people. Feminism is all about choices and I choose not to listen to this disc again.

The best track is "Everything In Its Own Time," the worst track is "Caramia."

For other reviews of former Artists Of The Month, please visit my reviews of:
Remember - Janis Ian
The Very Best Of Linda Ronstadt - Linda Ronstadt
The Collection - Alanis Morissette


For other music reviews, please visit my Music Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2013, 2007 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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