At first glance, it would be easy to consider the current Indigo Girls CD, All That We Let In, to be, if not a carbon copy, then at least a companion album with their previous CD, Become You.
Like that 2002 CD, All That We Let In found the duo of Amy Ray and Emily Saliers working with producer, Peter Collins, and with the same backing band -- Carol Issacs (keyboards), Clare Kenny (bass) and Brady Blade (drums).
Musically, the two CDs share plenty of common traits as well. After a string of albums that found the Indigo Girls beefing up their sound and showing more of a plugged-in rocking dimension, All That We Let In is rooted in the more acoustic-oriented folk-pop sound that characterized their early work.
Ray, though, is quick to say that their new album is anything but a clone of Become You.
"I didn't want to do Become You again as far as just staying strictly acoustic, because [with] that record, we were really [saying], we're going to make an acoustic record and we're not going to play electric songs on it," Ray said. "It was very structured in that way. And then [with] this record it was more like, let's see how the songs fit together and see what we need."
This approach led Collins and the Indigo Girls, who are coming to Denver on tour, to borrow a bit from their Swamp Ophelia and Come On Now Social-era to balance the latest CD.
"Our producer, at some point, was like, 'Can I hear some more songs from Amy?'" Ray recalled. "He was looking to add something to it [the CD] like "Heartache For Everyone," something really kind of electric and poppy.
Those distinctions made, All That We Let In is instantly recognizable as the work of the Indigo Girls.
The CD, though, opens with two songs that mine fresh stylistic territory. "Fill It Up Again" bounces along to an easy-going reggae lilt, while "Heartache For Everyone" is driven by a fast-paced ska beat.
After that, the Indigo Girls return to more familiar turf. "Something Real" and "Free In You" are the kind of appealing melodic folk-pop ballads that Saliers always seems to contribute to Indigo Girls CDs. Ray's songs, meanwhile, cover a wider spectrum, from the jaunty yet tuneful folk of "Perfect World," to "Tether," an expansive mid-tempo rocker that features full-bodied electric instrumentation, to "Cordova," a haunting ballad built around keyboard and piano.
All That We Let In is the final CD under the Indigo Girls' contract with Epic Records. And while Ray said she doesn't rule out re-signing with Epic, she suspects that major labels, which face ever-increasing pressures to deliver hit albums and higher profits, may not be the right option for a group like the Indigo Girls, who these days receive little radio play and rely largely on what has been a loyal grass-roots audience.
"I don't think we'll go with a major label again because even if they wanted us, I just think everything has shifted with what the emphasis of major labels is now," Ray said. "The climate right now... isn't as nurturing as what we need. I think we're in a pretty good situation right now with this record. We're pretty happy. But the climate for me and the way I feel about the industry and where it's been heading, I don't want to be part of that major label industry anymore."
-- Alan Sculley
Indigo Girls with guests Magnapop
Colorado Convention Center, 700 14th St., Denver
Thursday, March 31, 8 p.m.
Tickets: $45-$49.50; call any Ticketmaster outlet or visit www.ticketmaster.com