Though not what you’d call polished or slick, Rites of Passage introduces a sound and structure that are a touch more refined than previous albums by Indigo Girls. Thanks to producer Peter Collins and a slew of amazing guests, including Jackson Browne, David Crosby, the Roches, and Lisa Germano, the added harmonies and diverse instrumentation put on a whole other spin. Heck, they even tossed in strings arranged and conducted by Michael Kamen.
But lest you think otherwise, the songs themselves are pure Indigo Girls. One of the threads that runs through tunes by both Amy Ray and Emily Saliers seems to center around what it takes to be a good, kind person in this world, to do the right thing even in the face of danger or at all costs. Both women also express humility and reverence for a power greater than themselves, be it a cause, a god, a love, a fear, or a poet.
Vocally, their harmonies have never been cleaner and clearer than on songs like Saliers’ “Love Will Come to You” and “Virginia Woolf.” And, naturally, Ray’s fiery passion rears its head on “Jonas and Ezekial,” “Joking,” and “Chickenman.”
The Girls continue to be two of the most literate, engaging, and important songwriters in the folk-rock scene as they tackle issues ranging from Native American awareness to governmental misdoing. No misfires here, just a steady shot echoing forth.