Music Review: Indigo Girls – Beauty Queen Sister

April 3, 2014



It’s necessary, for some reason, for Indigo Girls to head into obscure corners of the Internet in order to check of the duo has brought out a new album, even though all of their 11 studio releases – including this one – have charted in the top 50 of the US charts.

Cynically, it’s all too easy to suppose that their ridiculously low profile in South Africa – EMI distributed them locally for a while, but now that whole company’s been swallowed up now, so it’s probably safe to assume that an act that was never part of their frontline marketing anyway is not a priority in the new set-up – has to do with their being perceived, in some quarters, as desperate unfashionable.

Singer-songwriters Emily Saliers and Amy Ray are both lesbians and both outspoken about environmental and conservation causes and the occasional political issue. If you have issues with any of those characteristics, that’s worth a serious discussion on a different forum, especially if you’re part of an organisation that’s supposed to be marketing the pair to a new audience.

What’s especially sad, in terms of the missed opportunities for this music to be appreciated, is that it should be some of the easiest music available to market. Saliers and Ray are, individually, sublime guitarists and singers and among the top 10% of the world’s songwriters (consistently great, with only minor concessions to trends and fads, since 1985). Together, they are role models for a whole generation of singers with a love for harmony and vocal dynamics and songwriters happy to take tips in the construction of counter-melodies and eloquent lyric lines.

Beauty Queen Sister is Indigo Girls’ most recent collection of new work (a “best of” compilation was released last year; here’s hoping it’s one of those contractual clauses, rather than a suggestion of impending retirement). It’s not the duo’s best work, but that bar is set almost unrealistically high; for most artists, something as capable as this album would be something worth aiming for.

And there are some cuts worth adding to the show-off reel (as opposed to the standard show-reel): gorgeous ballad John; the soaring Gone; the melancholic Birthday Song and the lilting country-folk of Feed And Water The Horses.

Incidentally, the title of the latter was recently posted on Facebook alongside the tag “Earworm Of The Day”. The first comment on the post?


Happily, that discerning critic deleted their own contribution before the outraged (male) fan – or indeed, random observers with less narrow-minded perspectives – had a chance to suggest that engaging with something of the value of the Indigo Girls’ output before making a snap judgment based on a completely unrelated prejudice might be of some value to him.

  • Share The Moon                                                 7.75
  • John                                                                    8.75
  • Beauty Queen Sister                                           7.25
  • We Get To Feel It All                                           7.25
  • War Rugs                                                            6.50
  • Gone                                                                   8.00
  • Mariner Moonlighting                                        7.00
  • Birthday Song                                                     8.00
  • Feed And Water The Horses                               8.25
  • Making Promises                                                7.50
  • Damo                                                                  6.75
  • Able To Sing                                                       8.00
  • Yoke                                                                   6.00

Rating: 7.462