Yesterday, Amy Ray stopped by HQ to give everyone in Rindland an extra special performance of material from her forthcoming release Didn’t It Feel Kinder. Due on August 5th, Ray’s new album marks the first time the Georgia-based songwriter has allowed a producer into the studio. But Greg Griffith –of Butchies and Le Tigre fame– works wonders on Kinder, coaxing a surprisingly varied and confident collection of songs from the longtime Indigo Girl and occasional solo artist. Featuring contributions from former Butchies, Kaia Wilson, Melissa York and Griffith, and additional work from Madonna -collaborator Tomi Martin, Brandi Carlile and indie faves Arizona, the album is a melting pot of styles, from the angular pop of “Bus Bus” to the stark folk of album-opener “Birds of a Feather.”
As could be expected, Ray translated the varied fare perfectly via her beat up acoustic. Opening with an anthem of personal-discovery, “Cold Shoulder,” her sunkissed Southern drawl shone proudly over a roomful of smiles. The clattering “Blame Is a Killer,” with it’s riot-grrl guitars and shouted vocals, was up next. Ray nervously admitted she’d written the revved up number on an acoustic, but with the aide of a fuzz preset on Garage Band to give it its requisite crunch. Even so, it was the treat of the afternoon, boiling over with the sort of energy that dots Didn’t It Feel Kinder, and often sets Ray apart from her Indigo Girl counterpart Emily Sailers. At one point during the brief set, Ray jokingly mentioned she regretted not bringing Sailers along with her to perform. But the beauty of the performance, and the album from which the songs were pulled, rest in Ray’s brave musical choices, and that distinct voice of hers (a husky, affecting instrument put to wonderful effect on the set-closer, “She’s Got To Be”). Sure, no one would have argued with an impromptu “Closer To Fine” singalong, but Ray’s set was every bit as satisfying.