Amy Ray Explores Her Roots In It All Goes South

Amy Ray of The Indigo Girls brings her solo project to The Continental Club on Saturday, February 11 with opener Kevn' Kinney of Drivin' & Cryin'.
Amy Ray of The Indigo Girls brings her solo project to The Continental Club on Saturday, February 11 with opener Kevn' Kinney of Drivin' & Cryin'. Photo By Sandlin Gaither
Though roots can provide a securing anchor for a tree, they can also grow to become tangled messes becoming problematic not only for the tree itself, but structures around it. This concept runs deep in Indigo Girl Amy Ray’s tenth solo album If It All Goes South.

Amy Ray and her band will be performing in Houston on Saturday, February 11 at The Continental Club with opener Kevn Kinney of Drivin’ & Cryin’.

“It’s hard to do self reflection,” says Ray. “It takes guts, time and patience from other people too. Sometimes you’ve got to be called out for saying something and be willing to suck it up.”

In It All Goes South, Ray reckons with the complicated facets of being raised in the South and having pride in where you’re from while recognizing the need for change set to the backdrop of her talented band's dynamic country sound.

“I grew up with this relationship to that rebel yell sort of vibe that was not really accurate but was fraught with romanticism. I understand how hard it is to wrench people from that and rinse it out of yourself so I try to be understanding because I just want people to change and change doesn't stick as easily if it doesn't come in a deep way.”
Ray and her band definitely achieved a sweet, reflective and playful take on exploring Southern roots and sounds blending country and cow punk influences throughout the album with lyrics that bring light to finding joy and celebrating life while always looking for a higher sense of self without ever coming across as self righteous or preachy.

“I think that we all have a lot of work to do and I think people know that and a lot of people have to learn it. We just have to carry on and do the best we can and on the record I think it's important for me to wrestle with it for no other reason than to just put it out there as a way for all of us to contemplate that in ourselves.”

Her work with The Indigo Girls opened doors for and provided a sense of self for many female artists and at a time when little was spoken about and few advocated for gay and lesbian artists, Ray and her bandmate Emily Saliers paved the path for the future.

Their long career is the subject of It’s Only Life After All, a recently screened documentary directed by Alexandria Bombach that as Ray describes carries the universal message to become the best self you can and will be shown at the upcoming SXSW Film Festival.

“I have to say in the early days we were growing as much as people around us were,” says Ray. “We weren’t thinking of ourselves as setting a standard and carrying a torch we were still learning and dealing with out own inetrnalized homophonbia. We were clumsy at best.”

Ray credits role models and friends in the musical community and media for she and Saliers ability to be embraced by mainstream outlets while celebrating female liberation and marginalized people everywhere.

“It took a long time for us to grow enough to really fill those shoes. You can have an impact before you even understand yourself, that's just the reality of it. That's the way it goes with any kind of outsider type thing that you are learning for yourself and I think especially with queer people, you're having an impact on other people because you're being an ally but you're struggling at the same time which means you're both learning at the same time and you need each other.”

"You can have an impact before you even understand yourself, that's just the reality of it."

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Though Ray found fame and cemented her place in music history with the folkier sounds of The Indigo Girls, this solo project allows her to explore her country music roots. With a band filled with talented players who all spend most of the year touring with their other projects, this tour provides them with a rare chance to step out of the studio and hit the road together.

“They're in another realm for me as players. They're just so good. That's part of the fund for me is just hearing what they're going to do every night.” Ray credits her solo projects for making her a better musician as she has had to learn to rely on her own songwriting skills without the help of her longtime bandmate.

For Ray, this band not only allows her to explore sounds and influences that differ from her more known songs with The Indigo Girls, it also allows her to get back to the basics and grassroots efforts of working as an independent artist creating relationships with small clubs and promoters all over the country.

“When you don't have someone fronting for you all the time you have to speak for yourself. You really have to learn how to be confident and kind and not just assume that people are going to mess with you, which is kind of the way that I was when I was young.”

Amy Ray will perform with Kevn Kinney on Saturday, February 11 at The Continental Club, 3700 Main. 9 p.m, $27-47.
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Gladys Fuentes is a first generation Houstonian whose obsession with music began with being glued to KLDE oldies on the radio as a young girl. She is a freelance music writer for the Houston Press, contributing articles since early 2017.
Contact: Gladys Fuentes