Published Sep 25, 2018"There's a lot of bad wood underneath the veneer," sang Patterson Hood on one of the Drive-By Truckers' greatest songs. A simple metaphor, but terrifically apt, and perhaps the best way to explain what Amy Ray, one half of the Indigo Girls, is exploring here on her sixth full-length.
A white southern American, bred in at least modest comfort, Ray has spent a lifetime struggling to reconcile her pride for her Georgia roots with a mounting horror at what that cultural pride was built and sustained upon. For the best white southern American artists — Patterson Hood, sure, but also William Faulkner, Tom Petty, Daniel Woodrell, Tom Franklin — this is the fecund soil from which a bloody bounty can be raised. It's exhausting, painful work, but goddamn if it isn't rewarding and rich.
Ray is a remarkably wise and generous songwriter. Her best work over these past decades pulls from inner turmoil and subjective emotional struggle, and places these torments in a wider context of community and landscape. On the deeply resonant Holler, Ray narrates the story of a woman desperately at odds with the political world around her, and the truncated history that raised her, but relentlessly hopeful for a brighter tomorrow.
Backed by a versatile band, and augmented by guest spots from some of the most exciting musicians in the field (Derek Trucks, Vince Gill, Brandi Carlile), Ray's campfire Americana songs play as a collection of resistance anthems. Long hailed as one of modern folk music's greatest singer-songwriters, Amy Ray has emerged 40 years into her career as a top-shelf progressive country act. A true pleasure. (Compass)