After years of swinging her artistic pendulum between folk singer (Indigo Girls) and punk rocker (solo artist), Amy Ray has added a midway stopping point to her arc — country raconteur. Although completely pre-meditated, the shift feels absolutely organic as Ray works her way through the 12 cuts on Goodnight Tender, seeming right at home amidst the pedal steel, banjo, dobro, fiddle, and mandolin.
Here, her voice relaxes into itself in all its weathered and worn glory, with nary a need to stretch or strain. Nowhere is this intentional surrender more evident than in what feels like the centerpiece of the collection, “Oyster and Pearl.” It’s a laid-back, meandering affair that underscores Ray’s hard-earned contentment with the simple things in life and her peaceful resignation with what happens next: “I been so long in this world, what I got left is all I need now.”
From that point on, solid tunes like “Anyhow,” “Duane Allman,” “Broken Record,” and “Let the Spirit” come together to make Goodnight Tender a more-than-valiant entry into country music for Ray and her supporting cast, including Justin Vernon, Susan Tedeschi, and others.
This review originally appeared in Elmore.