Picks and Pans Review: Nomads*indians*saints
World problems got you down? The opening cut of Amy Ray and Emily Saliers's riveting third album may give you an altruistic nudge and help get you up and about. With a peppy folk-laden chorus. "Hammer and a Nail" spreads the message of doing good and not just talking about it: "But my life is more than a vision/The sweetest part is acting after making a decision/I started seeing the whole as a sum of its parts."
That rousing start is just a sample. The deeper one gets into the record, the richer the songs. As they did so wonderfully on last year's eponymous major-label debut, Ray and Saliers make folk music sound more contemporary without betraying the genre's traditional beginnings. Ray's voice has a rough-hewn texture that on a track like "Welcome Me" blends with Saliers's gentler tone to create a poignant, aching quality.
The Georgia duo gets philosophical on "Watershed," an antidote for folks who think they seldom get a break: "You'll never fly as the crow flies/ Get used to a country mile/ When you're learning to face the path at your pace/ Every choice is worth your while."
Ray and Saliers sometimes show a tendency, as many young, lyric-minded songwriters do, to overanalyze and tie themselves up in strained, confusing verbal knots: "I understand your causes, sympathize the motivation." sings Ray on "1 2 3," which seems to convey some antidrug message. "But all the details of this war are just self-infatuation."
The Indigos' imagery is usually clearer and expressed with harmonies that climb over each other to reach new heights. Most of this album tingles with energy. If gently provocative folk music is on your Christmas list, you could do worse than to wander over to Nomads. (Epic)
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