Album Review

Amy Ray - Prom

Amy Ray - Prom

The difference between the music Amy Ray makes as half of the Indigo Girls and the music she makes on her own isn't just the difference between acoustic and electric guitar. Cranking the amplifier toughens her stance and streamlines her attitude. On her second solo album, Prom, she needs little more than half an hour to get her point across. Or, rather, her points, because Prom covers a lot of ground in its short running time. Even more than Stag, Ray's 2001 solo debut, Prom explores the identity an individual tries to forge against the identity that others -- society, government, friends and neighbors -- want to impose. This is the very essence of the punk-rock reaction. Then again, Ray also questions the identity of punk rock, and not just in the explicit cultural commentary of "Blender". In trebly contrast to the yowling, tattooed white boys who currently represent punk with radio-friendly rebellion, Ray offers something decidedly feminist, whether in her choice of collaborators (Team Dresch's Jody Bleyle and Donna Dresch, Luscious Jackson drummer Kate Schellenbach) or in her perspective (anger tempered by tenderness and introspection). In the accent of her hoarsely melodic voice and the settings of songs such as the ringing "Rural Faggot" and the acoustic deviation "Rodeo", Ray likewise offers something southern, although she challenges that identification, too. She briskly, resonantly, noisily faces all questions of what she is with the assurance of someone who knows who she is: She's Amy Ray, an artist of clarity no matter what kind of guitar she plays.