Amy Ray's new "Stag" album is rightfully considered a solo project because it doesn't include Indigo Girl partner Emily Saliers. But that doesn't mean the singer worked alone.
Ray teamed with a variety of indie-label bands to craft 10 songs with more pointed lyrics and harder rocking arrangements than Indigo Girls fare.
Collaborators ranged from Atlanta punk band Rock*A*Teens to Birmingham 1945 (formerly Three Finger Cowboy) and the Butchies, the noted femme-rock trio from Durham, N.C. The latter played on five songs and landed a job as Ray's touring band and opening act.
"We had jammed together a little bit when they had been on the road with us as the Indigo Girls," Ray said by phone from Atlanta. "It came together really quickly, and I think that's why it evolved from doing two or three songs together to doing five. It sounded immediately comfortable."
If the songs sound raw and energetic, it only complements the blunt lyrical approach to emotionally charged issues ranging from sexism in the music business to gender stereotypes.
In "Lucystoners," Ray takes on Rolling Stone publisher Jann Wenner as poster-boy for rock's perceived gender-bias: "Janny Wenner, Janny Wenner, Rolling Stone's most fearless leader/Gave the boys what they deserve/but with the girls he lost his nerve."
As owner of Atlanta-based independent label Daemon Records, Ray is acutely aware of the underdog's perspective. "It affects all kinds of women and it also affects men. The less diverse the industry is, the less open it is. It means only music of the mainstream establishment gets played. But how women are treated is a good barometer."
She is highly critical of corporate consolidation in the radio industry, although she stresses that musicians outside the mainstream can't afford to reject the notion of commercial success.
"We don't have to be on major labels necessarily, but we have to work on that fact that rock radio doesn't play women. If alternative rock stations were playing women, they also would be playing the guys that should be played. There's a lot of good music out there that we're not hearing and a lot of people who just don't listen to the radio anymore."