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Album Review

Listeners who rallied around Stag, Amy Ray's 2001 collection of punk-kissed roots rock, will find Prom to be an equal if not better slice of "blue state" Americana swathed in a "red state" wrapper. The darker half of the Indigo Girls has tapped into her Southern past and created a record that manages to paint youth as a struggle against both colors of the political spectrum. It's hard to balance sweetness and anger, but Ray — who always manages to find a kind of winsome humor somewhere in the middle — makes it look easy, and her not-so-subtle mix of attitude, nostalgia, and compassion makes for a perfectly enlightening road trip of an album. Prom starts out strong with the one-two punch of "Put It Out for Good" ("The stadium lights were breaking through the bleachers/I spent all day pushing tissue roses into chicken wire") and "Driver Education" ("Films and drills and safety illustrations/The crushed cars of driver education"). Both cuts paint the kind of country high-school experience that fueled John Cougar Mellencamp to sing about "Jack and Diane" and Tom Petty to salute his "American Girl," but Ray's youth was more than just "Drinking with the older guys/Tripping by the lakeside." On "Rural F****t" she comforts a friend on the verge of "coming out" in a small town — "I know you want to change the truth/We were made by nature's fools" — and "Let It Ring," with its pounding snare/mandolin attack, is as rousing a challenge to the conservative right's hijacking of faith as any fiery pundit with a hidden earpiece. Musically, Prom hits all the right notes, blending crushing guitars and surging drums with enough melodic picking and strumming to satisfy both "folkies" and "rockers." Ray's vision for a band that would be the direct antithesis of the Indigo Girls may have been met, but it's lost none of the duo's heart, and hearing it cranked to 11 just makes it all the more compelling.

Customer Reviews

Best Ever

I absolutely adore this album. I started listening to the Indigo Girls in the 1990s and have always favored the more electric Amy Ray songs and now I feel as though I'm really getting away with something, having two entire edgy Amy Ray albums all to myself. Well, I guess you all can listen too. ;-) Anyhow, the songs on Prom are rich with storytelling and Amy's deep, gravelly voice and I love the music. Put It Out for Good is my current favorite song.

Contemporary Queercore -- True Heaven

For Amy Ray's second solo disc, the "more intense" half of the Indigo Girls taps into her past for an exploration of awkward adolescence that is both heartbreaking and empowering. Boldly exploring issues of sexual identity and alienation, Ray charts the rocky path to maturation, recalling nights spent hanging out with "all the punks and the queers and the freaks and the smokers" who "feel like they'll be waiting for the rest of their lives" (the powerful opener "Put It Out for Good"), days spent "drinkin' with the older boys and trippin' by the lakeside" ("Driver Education") and years agonizing over how "not to walk like a man" ("Pennies On the Track"). On "Rural F#ggot," she gives advice to an angry young boy struggilng with his sexuality, and later sings of her desire for a relationship filled with purity on "Sober Girl." It's all presented in a straight-up rock and roll fashion, equally informed by the punk rock swagger of forebears like the Clash and Joan Jett as it is by Ray's own Southern roots. Through it all, Ray's knack for mixing melodrama with melody remains clear-headed and compelling, never letting pathos or melancholy stand in the way of a damn good rock tune. As an artist who admits to being inspired by and influenced by the DIYers of the now-defunct "queercore" (aka homocore) music scene, Ray is doing something equally important: She's carrying the flame of the movement, issuing a call as much for activism as she is for making identity-driven music that sure feels good to rock out to. This is an instant classic. Buy it.

American Classic

"Prom" exposes Amy Ray's part of the Indigo Girls, but this a great album in it's own right. While you can hear a resemblance to some of the harder Indigo Girls songs, the songs aren't just half of Indigo Girls. The first listen is easy because of the the strong melodies, but the concrete lyrics draw you in and really give the songs depth. This is a classic American Rock 'N' Roll album akin to Billy Joel's Piano Man or The Stranger. Amy Ray is an amazing talent and this is a great album.


Born: April 12, 1964 in Decatur, GA

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Many artists, musical and otherwise, use their craft to provide a visible platform for the issues they believe in. Their activism becomes interwoven with their art. The Indigo Girls have long been known for voicing their political and social views in song. Amy Ray teamed up with Emily Saliers while in high school, and soon the duo became a staple in the Atlanta music scene. In 1981, their independent music career began with a basement recording called Tuesday's Children. One thing led to another,...
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Prom, Amy Ray
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