Historical entertainment planned for joint celebration of three Southwest Arkansas milestone anniversaries
Folk power duo Amy Ray and Emily Saliers, depending upon whom you ask, are many things: musicians, proponents of the environment, hippies, political activists, lesbians, lovers. Save the false assumption that two homosexual women who have made music together since 1985 must be a couple, the rest is true.
Their musical genesis began in Atlanta, as evidenced by a Southern attitude that surfs the edge of blues, alt-country and rock. Whether their poetry sings to the listener like a signal in the fog or sends the average straight dude screaming in the opposite direction, there is no understating the profusion of talent this twosome shares. So wipe that smirk off your face, naysayer — this wasn't a mere hair braiding, bra burning, cry-fest.
“Our first time in Little Rock,” they admitted. “But we really like camping here.” Their new material from “Despite Our Differences,” was very similar to the rest of their 20-plus year discography — soulful, poignant and gorgeously composed. Make no mistake, not only can these women wail, they can write the hell out of some lyrics.
Saliers and Ray thread a mutual and unwavering affinity for the natural world though their songs, both old and new. “Emily always writes the cheesy, sad shit,” our girlfriend whispered. Which is true, but no one noticed, considering the blinding spell the duo cast with pitch perfect vocals and words that smash you in the heart like a sledgehammer.
During the show, I was reminded of a simpler time, when mitigating my problems only required a heavy sobbing session with our boom boxes and the closest Indigo Girls CD I could get my hands on. Thirteen years later, I felt the same tender solace. I understand that this is not everyone's bag — but to me, therapy this pure is priceless.
The crowd was decidedly mixed but unified with a knowing glow, although I won't take bets on which sex outnumbered the other. I was upset that the show wasn't sold out, but encouraged by the surprising number of men present.
Highlights included “Prince of Darkness” and a brilliant rendition (and three-part harmony with opening act Brandi Carlile) of Dylan's “Don't Think Twice, It's All Right.” The show was mostly acoustic guitars, with the exception of Ray's deft hand on the mandolin, a cellist and keyboard player.
Saliers and Ray thanked the representatives from the Stonewall Democrats of Arkansas and the Centers for Artistic Revolution for manning booths in the lobby. Voter registration was available.
In the end, it was an outstanding performance, finalized with hugs for all the collaborating performers on stage and their song-ending trademark, “Thanks Ya'll!”
Saliers and Ray expose the cracks in life with such sincerity and beauty, it's almost unnerving. Rustic and faithful, they climb so far beyond just singing pretty songs. Their music is born from old souls and it has never echoed more lovely or true.