When you hear “Indigo Girls,” what pops into your head? It’s very likely an image of two women, namely Amy Ray and Emily Saliers, standing next to one another strumming acoustic guitars and singing in passionate harmony. You might even be hearing their folk-pop classic “Closer to Fine” in your head as you read this.
And to a certain extent, that’s a fair characterization. After all, that’s largely the way that Ray and Saliers rose to fame in the late-'80s and early-'90s, scoring six gold and three platinum albums and winning a Grammy in 1990 for Best Contemporary Folk Recording. And two women, two guitars is most often how they perform live — which they’ll do at The Senate on Jan. 25.
But the best kept secret about the Indigo Girls is that they’ve actually been expanding on that formula since the early-'90s. On 1994’s Swamp Ophelia, for example, Ray and Saliers began incorporating more rock into their sound (check out the album’s closing track, “This Train Revised”), and they even added a dark, haunting string arrangement to the album’s centerpiece ballad “Touch Me Fall.”
That expansion on their sound continued with subsequent albums like Shaming of the Sun and Come on Now Social, which worked in Latin-tinged percussion and straight-ahead hard rock, respectively. And their lyrical perspective changed, as well, moving from matters of the heart to social and political issues. “Shame On You,” from 1997, concerns itself with illegal immigration and has not coincidentally returned to the Girls’ live set after a long absence. In recent years, they’ve even toured with a full orchestra, lending a sense of grandeur to even their simplest songs.
So don’t be surprised if they throw some curveballs at you during their Columbia show, along with the expected yearning folk and perfectly intertwined vocal harmonies.