Goodnight Tender, the new solo album from Amy Ray, is not a record to be taken lightly. It feels like a project that was mulled over, devised, and labored on for a long period of time. As such it demands our respect and undivided attention. It’s a brave and utterly successful musical step for Ray. Unquestionably different than her other solo albums, as well as her work with the Indigo Girls, it is very much a feat of pure Americana.
On a personal note, I think that Ray’s path to country, folk, and Americana is similar to ours (and to many others) in that we grew up listening to punk rock, channeling that energy and brashness of spirit into what we were doing and how we were living, then eventually discovering folk and country music, realizing that they’re not so different. It’s all three chords and the truth in a manner of speaking. All of it has beauty and pain, all of it is made by the common man, and all of it offers unique insight on the human condition.
Goodnight Tender does too. It is the result of this long love of the twangier styles, but it skirts the line, drawing on punk, rock, and more traditional singer-songwriting. The project also came about organically with Ray bringing musicians like Phil Cook (of Megafaun), Heather McEntire (of Mount Moriah), Kelly Hogan, Susan Tedeschi, and other to contribute. Those who might brush off Goodnight Tender as an inauthentic foray into unfamiliar territory need only listen to the powerful songwriting and performances throughout the record to be convinced. Back in April, Amy Ray and her band, which featured some of those album contributors, came by to the WXPN Studio to share their sound with us before gigging at World Cafe Live that evening.
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