Music Review: Amy Ray’s “Goodnight Tender”

The Indigo Girls have always been the core of my life’s soundtrack.  There is something between the relevant, beautiful lyrics, the acoustic harmonies, and simplicity of their music that fits.  In a world of committee-written, commercialized, and plastic music, the Indigo Girls are a welcome respite.

But this is not about the Indigo Girls, but more Amy Ray and her recent solo release, “Goodnight Tender.”

The album sits precariously on the very tip of twangy-country music with it’s gritty, organic, mountain influences and the acoustic harmonies Amy Ray is known for.  But when the twang of Appalachia is revealed, it is a welcome addition to the story in the music and not a distraction from her age-old folkiness.

As is always the case with Amy, her lyrics really hit home.  Of all the tracks, the one that really resonates with me is “When you Come for me.”  As I roadtripped from Vermont to Oregon recently, I could not help but think of my grandmother’s passing while listening and pondering this track.  I may even ask that it be played at her memorial.  My sunglasses have hid many an errant tear during the 4 day drive as memories of Nana streamed in.

Oyster and Pearl is more Indigo than Amy, but this is what qualifies it for my second place fav.  A hint of banjo pulls in the country, while the immersive lyrics tell a fascinating story that lets you drift off into a smoky, local, leaf-stripped and frigid mountain life.

My Dog is an upbeat, acoustic offering that ties banjo, bass, and guitar together into a toe-tapping, steering-wheel slapping, ear-worming track that will stick with you all day. The speedometer will increase while humming down the interstate, so be careful.

Overall, this is an illustrative, story telling album, speaking of snowfalls, coyotes, and ramblin’ rivers…purity and darkness.  Of man’s best friend, and man’s worst enemy.

There really are no detracting fillers in this album. Perhaps the only downer are some of the tracks, notably More Pills which, while more twangy, is a bit depressing of a song.  But that is part of the album story so it works.  Goodnight Tender (the track) leans into minor key territory on occasion (is that a slack key I hear?), which does help paint the dreary aspects of the story.

This is organic, country music that tells both sides of the story.  The good days and the bad, the My Dog and the More Pills.

As Amy’s sixth solo album, Goodnight Tender brings out her best.  Two parts Americana, one part twang, and one part Indigo blends all the beautiful elements of this album.  Add in a pinch of I-80 truck stop.

Pop this in your Jeep, hit the open road (or trails) and slip back into a simpler time and place.

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