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In 2012, Emily Saliers and her Indigo Girls partner Amy Ray embarked on a bold new chapter, collaborating with a pair of orchestrators to prepare larger-than-life arrangements of their songs to perform with symphonies around the country. It was a challenging endeavor, to say the least, but the Grammy-winning duo managed to find that elusive sonic sweet spot with the project, creating a seamless blend of folk, rock, pop, and classical that elevated their songs to new emotional heights without sacrificing any of the emotional intimacy and honesty that have defined their music for decades. Now, after more than 50 performances with symphonies across America, the experience has finally been captured in all its grandeur on the band's stunning new album, Indigo Girls Live With The University of Colorado Symphony Orchestra.
Spanning material from throughout the band's career, the 22-song set features a mix of re-imagined classics, unexpected deep cuts, and tracks from Indigo Girls' latest studio album, One Lost Day. "Compromise" wraps its punk roots around spaghetti western strings, while the brass on "Go" flexes explosive marching band muscle, and "The Power Of Two" nods to the lush arrangements of legendary songwriters like Tom Waits and Harry Nilsson. The energy in the room that night was infectious, with both the musicians and fans feeding off the same visceral electricity, and the crowd couldn't help but join in for a massive sing-along on "Closer To Fine." There's an unmistakable sense of community and inclusion on the album, in part because that's a hallmark of every Indigo Girls show, but also in part because Ray and Saliers considered themselves pieces of the orchestra for the performance, no more and no less important than any other artist on the stage.
When it came to recording the album, Ray and Saliers had an exceptional conductor by their side in Gary Lewis. Under Lewis' able direction, the University of Colorado Symphony Orchestra is one of the most diverse and adaptable groups around, boasting performances with everyone from Academy Award winning composer Dave Grusin, to multi-platinum singer/songwriter Natalie Merchant. After a sold-out show with the orchestra in the spring of 2016, it was clear to Ray and Saliers that Lewis and the ensemble would be perfect for a live album. "We had an emotional connection with that symphony right away," says Ray. "They had a fluidity and a swagger and the kind of dynamics that we wanted to capture."
That cohesion shines throughout album, reflecting a singleness of mind and spirit that often takes years for musicians to develop. Chalk it up to the power of the songs or the strength of the duo's connection or the versatility of the symphony, but one thing's clear: Indigo Girls love a good challenge.
Gary Lewis, conductor
University of Colorado Symphony Orchestra