What would Romeo do?
Over twenty years ago Georgia offered up a new southern female folk duo with throaty vocals, the Indigo Girls. They were so great in those early years before becoming overproduced (in a Nashville Music Row studio, no less, with such a sophomoric effort at just the point I’d hoped for further greatness from them, I have named every such type of effort The Swamp Ophelia syndrome). Emily Sailors added exquisite refinement to their early raw recordings, but the deeper voiced Amy Ray falls into a special category of pining female lesbian folk singer. It was around the same time of Melissa Etheridge’s smoking first single Bring Me Some Water, and it became evident there’s no other group of singers able to pine quite as dramatically and convincingly as lesbian neo-folk rockers. These women do not hold back expressing their anguish, and, in fact, glory in their passionate emotionalism in a way few other white singers would dare (the elegantly restrained, African-American Tracy Chapman stands apart from other lesbian neo-folkies, and that is because she is really in her own category).
I got the expression ‘pining female folk singers’ from a distant acquaintance at college, and he represented precisely the type of socially awkward, emotionally repressed, privileged, white male who would get particularly offended at the bordering-on-hysterical angst of these fine artists, of which Amy Ray’s is such a shining example. It also just so happens that this category of Generation X American white man almost always has a possessive attachment to those masters of dignified, stoic, broody guitar rock, British band Dire Straits. So guess how great their horror and disapproval when the Indigo Girls remade one of the admittedly most marvelously understated, gorgeous, ‘serious’ rock songs of all time, Romeo and Juliet. Although the Indigos’ were the 1st version I heard, I love both versions of this song for their strikingly different styles. I highly recommend educating yourselves by hearing the original of this stunning song. I’ll pay 10 dollars to the first reader who notices the West Side Story reference! Yeah…
Amy’s adaptation is utterly Over-The-Top, featuring only her, and her one guitar, raving away about ‘Julieeeeeeee’, and rather sets a standard for the lengths one lesbian folk rocker, at any rate, will reach in order to express her passion.
I almost feel sorry for these repressed white men, that such a spectacle even exists, but I’m enjoying it way too much. Rawr!
Speaking of Passion, Amy does another delightfully overwrought solo I always appreciated, from a 1990’s production of Jesus Christ Superstar, she sings the lead! The subject of the Indigo Girls(Lord help me, I think Emily played Mary Magdelene) and Andrew Lloyd Webber crossing paths is too absurd for me to hardly begin to pay it due respect. Indeed, Amy as Jesus is so bizarre that it makes a certain perfect, beautiful sense..Gethsemene(I Only Want to Say) is Jesus’s meditation in the garden on the eve of his execution, expressing grief and doubt over his, err, her, fate.
Oh Amy, I love you so much, and you look so much like a man I could almost switch teams.
Interested parties please read obliquely related self-referential entry from 6/4/07, I Love Jesus.