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Amy Ray's Music Hollers 'Subversiveness With A Smile'

Carrie Schrader

Amy Ray, who is one-half of the Indigo Girls duo, has always leaned toward the rockier side of folk-rock, but neither "folk" nor "rock" fully describes the breadth of her solo work. It's infused with a Southern punk feel she likes to call "subversiveness with a smile."  Amy Ray returns to chat with "Musician's Spotlight" host John Floridis about her most recent recording Holler, and to reflect on her decades-long career.


Some young musicians defy stylistic categorization in search of their own musical voice. Older genre-busters like Amy Ray don't lack for musical grounding, but they don't quit paying tribute to their eclectic musical influences, either. From Patty Griffin to Patti Smith, Big Star to Bon Iver, Ray charts wide seas.

Ray's career began in high school in Atlanta, when she and Emily Saliers formed the duo that would become the Indigo Girls. Starting with a 1981 basement tape called "Tuesday's Children” they got a record deal with Epic Records in 1988, won a Grammy in 1990, and have recorded nearly 20 albums over more than 30 years. The Indigo Girls share a passion for harmony and justice; they support LBGTQ+ rights, voter registration, and environmental justice. In 1993, with Winona LaDuke, they founded the indigenous environmental justice organization, Honor the Earth, and in 1990, Amy Ray founded the not-for-profit record label Daemon Records to support grassroots artists like Kristen Hall, Rose Polenzani, Girlyman, John Trudell, Gerard McHugh and the Rock-A-Teens.

Ray's most recent recording, Holler, channels mountain folk, bluegrass, gospel, and Southern rock. She says that the songs on Holler "tell stories of late nights, love, addiction, immigration, despair, honkytonks, growing up in the south, touring for decades, being born in the midst of the civil rights movement, and the constant struggle to find balance in the life of a left-wing Southerner who loves Jesus, my homeland and its peoples."

Holler along with Amy Ray's music on this edition of "Musician's Spotlight," with John Floridis.

(Broadcast: "Musician's Spotlight,"  11/08/18 and 2/21/19. Listen on the radio Thursdays, 7:30 p.m., or via podcast.)


John Floridis, the host and producer of Musician's Spotlight, has been with Montana Public Radio since 1997. He has interviewed over 200 musicians during that time. He is also an independent recording and performing artist in his own right and a former registered music therapist.
Beth Anne Austein has been spinning tunes on the air (The Folk Show, Dancing With Tradition, Freeforms), as well as recording, editing and mixing audio for Montana Public Radio and Montana PBS, since the Clinton Administration. She’s jockeyed faders or "fixed it in post” for The Plant Detective; Listeners Bookstall; Fieldnotes; Musicians Spotlight; The Write Question; Storycorps; Selected Shorts; Bill Raoul’s music series; orchestral and chamber concerts; lecture series; news interviews; and outside producers’ programs about topics ranging from philosophy to ticks.
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