REVIEW: Amy Ray’s “Holler” Captures the Duality of the South

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Amy Ray, best known as one half of the Indigo Girls, confronts her southern heritage on her new solo album, Holler (Daemon Records). Working with producer Brian Speiser (Tedeschi Trucks Band, Indigo Girls) Ray has enlisted an all-star cast of her friends and associates. The inimitable Derek Trucks plays electric guitar on “Bondsman;” harmonies are sung by Phil Cook (Megafaun) on “Didn’t Know a Damn Thing,” Vince Gill and Brandi Carlile on “Last Taxi Fare,” Lucy Wainwright Roche on “Dadgum Down,” and the Wood Brothers on “Tonight I’m Paying the Rent.” In addition to these guest appearances, Speiser and Ray have put together masterful orchestrations full of horns and strings that give the songs on this album a rich, full-blooded sound. The inclusion of songs with pedal steel and banjo alongside songs with full horn and string sections gives the album a terrific variety.

Amy Ray wastes no time on Holler. While the album opens with a short instrumental prelude, “Gracie’s Dawn,” Ray goes straight to the heart of the matter in next song, “Sure Feels Good Anyway.” She sings that the Confederate flag “aint Southern, it’s just Southern hate.” In a chasting tone, she goes on to sing, “And I know from your mamas that you’re better that.” This is Ray’s call to her people, in no uncertain terms, to wake up and confront the reality of the situation.

Not all of Holler is as confrontational as “Sure Feels Good Anyway.” “Oh City Man” is a gentle ode to the joys of country life. Like many singer-songwriters from the South, Amy Ray has a conflicted relationship with her heritage. As expressed in “Sure Feels Good Anyway,” there are aspects of southern heritage and culture that infuriate her. But she can’t completely reject the region; the South still calls to Amy Ray.

Holler is full of masterfully done songs that capture the duality of Amy Ray’s relationship with the South. It will be of special interest to those of not from that region, as it will help us understand the region, and help us understand the complex feelings it engenders. And while it does that, you’ll hear some amazing music by a host of phenomenal artists.  https://www.amy-ray.com/

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