Staring Down the Brilliant Dream
Over two decades, the Indigo Girls have built a substantial following, whose core has ridden out the changes in the music industry and in Amy Ray and Emily Saliers' critical and commercial fortunes from Grammy winners to wondering where their next label deal would come from. They've stuck by them through three label changes and recordings that were sometimes of varying quality. Staring Down the Brilliant Dream, a deluxe two-disc, 31-song live set, is for those who stayed. The Indigo Girls' 2009 Vanguard debut, Poseidon and the Bitter Bug, was one of their finest offerings, and one can't help but think that even as they toured to support it they were assembling this one behind the scenes. Co-produced with their soundman Brian Speiser, it's compiled from tours between 2006 and 2009. Their entire discography is represented in one way or another. Along the way, from Seattle to Chicago, from Yountville, CA to Lowell, MA to Knoxville, TN, these performances all have a presence that is immediate, kinetic, and committed. Hundreds of hours of tapes were gone through to find the best performances of these songs, many of which contain guest appearances, such as "Closer to Fine" with guest vocalists Jill Hennessy, Sean and Dominic Kelly, and Georgia rock legend Michelle Malone (Malone also appears on the set closer, a killer reading of the Rolling Stones' "Wild Horses"). The 2006 band featured all-star drummer Matt Chamberlain as well as Carol Isaacs on keyboards and bassist Clare Kenny. By 2008 it was often down to just Ray and Saliers with Julie Wolf on accordion or some other wonderfully illustrative instrument. What is ever-present here in this impeccably sequenced collection: passion. There isn't one track here that feels as if the Indigo Girls are going through the motions. Check "I Believe in Love," "What Are You Like," "Watershed," "Prince of Darkness," "Fly Away," or the transcendent "Love of Our Lives." Ultimately, it doesn't matter which cut you select or which disc; what makes the Indigo Girls so important to their fans is on display here in spades.