- The Washington Times - Monday, February 16, 2004

Indigo girls

“All That We Let In”

Epic Records

Who says intelligent, folksy rock has to be a downer? Not the Indigo Girls. They’ve been straddling the line between ultraserious polemics and rootsy rock since 1987 with varyingdegrees of success.

“All That We Let In,” the duo’s ninth album, sets a merry tone with its first two tracks. The frisky “Fill It Up Again” and even rowdier “Heartache for Everyone” bounce along like something the singles charts might have embraced in the days before hip-hop domination.

Few musical experiences are more organic than Amy Ray and Emily Saliers blending their voices either as one mellifluous sound or as two oft-intertwining streams. That harmonizing formula stands up throughout the pensive but powerful “Perfect World.” The song hints at the simple, hippie-esque world view conservative-minded critics eagerly pounce on when considering the duo’s lyrics.

The same may not be true for the title track. “Let In” finds the Girls in gauzy political mode, taking swipes at presidents who dare to “put up their dukes.” Yet the song is so unrepentantly beautiful the anger goes down like a fizzy soft drink.

It may seem all the rage to attack the Bush administration these days, given the raft of antiwar songs to bubble to the surface over the past year. The Girls, though, were hammering away at conservatives far longer than their peers. Those arriving late to the antiwar party seem more trend-conscious than sincerely outraged by comparison.

“All That We Let In” isn’t fixated just on Beltway matters. At times, it wants to rock, particularly with Miss Ray’s gritty “Tether.” Those with a predilection for sensitive ‘80s-era anthems will rejoice. Songs such as “Dairy Queen” expand their instrumental reach and, in turn, their buoyant sound in a more constructive fashion.

This album will be the last Amy Ray and Emily Saliers cut for Epic, their home label for the past 14 years. The swan song is anything but mournful. It is standard-issue Indigo: smart, sweet and soulful in the appropriate doses.

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