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Indigo Girls will get folky in Ann Arbor this weekend

Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

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It's been 30 years since Indigo Girls put out their first album -- a modest, self-released set called "Strange Fire," which netted the Georgia duo a major label recording contract and entrenched it in the pop music mainstream.

Three decades and 13 more albums later Emily Saliers and Amy Ray are still going strong, playing everywhere from amphitheaters to symphony halls to political rallies -- including last week's Women's March in Washington, D.C. They've also branched off in their own directions, with Ray releasing six solo albums and running her own label, Daemon Records, and Saliers co-writing a book with her father, theology professor Don Saliers, scoring films and preparing her first solo album for release this year.

The Indigos are both mothers now, and their Honor The Earth non-profit focuses on environmental issues, including the embattled Standing Rock Indian Reservation in North Dakota.

Put all that together, and it's hard to imagine a more appropriate headliner for this year's 40th Ann Arbor Folk Festival...

Saliers, 53, says that she and Ray "have our roots in folk. I grew up with the Kingston Trio around the house, even an artist like John Denver, who's kind of a folk artist, the McGarrigle sisters, even the Roches. Amy and I started wtih acoustic guitars and wrote songs on those, so we feel very comfortable in folk circles, especially now since the genre has broadened a bit to be inclusive of different musical influences under the umbrella of folk music. Now folks means so many things to so many people."

Saliers says that lyrically she and Ray feel a kinship with folk music as well. "It's music of the people," she explains by phone from her home in Atlanta. "We definitely write about issues of the people at the very heart of our music. Amy and I sing a lot of songs that are about bringing people together and being involved and things like that. I think we feel especially inspired in the wake of everything that's happened since the presidential election,"

Saliers feels confident that the Donald Trump presidency, which inspired the Women's March events around the world, will provide a boost in protest music during his administration. She says it's already inspired many of the songs on the solo album she's working on now. "It's all about this movement underneath the surface of what's happening with the presidency. It's all about coming together," Saliers says. "A lot of the songs are directly about political and social issues." She hopes to have the album out during the first half of the year.

As for the March itself, Saliers is still overwhelmed. "It was all so incredible," she says. "Everything was so connected because there were so many marches everywhere. It was so peaceful but it was so energized. It was very powerful to feel that in the wake of what Trump has created from his followers, which is a lot of hatefulness and discord and dysfunction. When you're down there marching you know you're in a sea of people, but when you see the aerial shots you think, 'My goodness, this is a movement...' Now we have to transform that into direct action. That's the next step."

While the Indigos will be recording an orchestra album during April with the Colorado University Symphony Orchestra and are eyeballing a new studio album, but they'll also be putting a priority on their own activism. ""I think the election was a real jolt for people," Saliers says, "and now there's a lot of organizers on the ground taking close look at local elections, galvanizing voter populations that weren't inspired to vote and all those kinds of things. You can't really be too proactive. We're going to be led by the advice of organizers where we play. It's jsut a matter of keeping our eye on the prize and being involved."

The 40th Ann Arbor Folk Festival

6:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Jan. 27-28.

Hill Auditorium on the U-M campus, Ann Arbor.

Kacey Musgraves, Jenny Lewis and others perform Friday. Indigo Girls, Margo Price, Kiefer Sutherland and others play Saturday. Susan Werner emcees both nights.

Some $39.50 balcony seats remain for Saturday's shows. Tickets priced $39.50-$100 remain fro Friday.

Call 734-761-1800 or visit theark.org.

Web Site: www.theark.org

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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