The Indigo Girls (Emily Saliers and Amy Ray) released their sixteenth studio album, One Lost Day, on June 2nd. Vast in its reach, but unified by the traveler’s sense of wonder, gratitude, and empathy, One Lost Day moves like a centrifuge, pulling the listener close to linger in the small moment, then casting out onto sonic currents. This is music of the past, present, and future — a boundlessness earned and not bestowed. One Lost Day has a feeling of music composed across time, not just in time. These songs are rooted in tradition and inventive, too: nourished in dark soils, leafing and luminous.
Memories here are more than specters; they are evolutions. The album maps the dim corridors of the heart and mind, lifting and landing the listener across state lines and continents. Place is a character rich in the universal specific: “Boots on a board in a barn” in “Texas Was Clean,” boys “under the bridge on the river shoals off GA 9” in “Fishtails,” the New Orleans’ 1788 fire and the fence around the St. Louis cemetery in “Elizabeth,” the “sunny twist of Venice Chez Jay” in “Southern California is Your Girlfriend,” and the devil-spawned Angola prison in Louisiana where three black men sat wrongly convicted for decades, confined in solitary.
The dirge-like ballad “Findlay, Ohio 1968” opens with a searing string and piano arrangement that feels like slipping through a tear in the space-time continuum. After we reach the violin’s held high-C and the heartbeat drums, and before Saliers kicks in with her chilling vocals, we hover, suspended in time, before landing gently on the hot asphalt of Grammy’s driveway in 1968, “poking hot tar bubbles with a stick…the smell of the trash and leaves burning in the can.” What unfolds is pure narrative intuition, wherein the stuff of life, life’s inventory — the pall of the impending Kent State massacre, Sexton’s poetry, Cathy’s grief-stricken, beer-drinking mom, the dad who never returned from Vietnam, the fence-scaling girl ripping jeans, the boy with wandering heart and hands, the smell of Trenton’s refineries and the slapping of the station wagon’s wheels — are the metaphoric legs that carry the story and this song across time and distance.