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Georgia legends raise their voices
Indigo Girls bring their brand of socially active folk-rock to Sautee Jamboree
Indigo Girls
The Indigo Girls, Amy Ray, left, and Emily Saliers, will perform Friday at the Sautee Jamboree music festival.

Sautee Jamboree music festival

When: 7 p.m. Friday-Saturday

Performers: nine bands including the Indigo Girls and singer/songwriter Michelle Malone.

Tickets: $35. Free camping.

More info: Sautee Nacoochee Community Association. 706-878-3300, www.snca.org/performingarts/jamboree.

 

The Indigo Girls have achieved icon status on many levels.

With multiple gold and platinum albums, a Grammy award, and a place in the Georgia Music Hall of Fame, the duo of Amy Ray and Emily Saliers are among the most celebrated and respected players on the American folk rock scene.

The Indigo Girls take the stage at 9:30 p.m. Friday to close out the evening's lineup at the Sautee Nacoochee Center's fifth annual Sautee Jamboree.

Tickets are $35 for the entire weekend festival; click here for more info.

The Indigo Girls have been together for more than 20 years, playing some of the world's most esteemed musical venues.

Their latest record, Staring Down the Brilliant Dream, a collection of live performances, is available on IG Recordings/Vanguard Records. Their upcoming release, Holly Happy Days, a collection of traditional and original holiday and seasonal songs, will be released Oct. 12.

This weekend's Sautee Jamboree offers a unique opportunity to catch this world-class act in an intimate outdoor environment as a backdrop to their strongly lyrical songs infused with nature-based metaphor and philosophical introspection.

"What they do around the folk arts is so important," Ray said of the Sautee Nacoochee Center's mission in the greater community. "That support for the culture and the context is really important and right down our alley."

Ray and Sailers both grew up in Decatur and began playing music together while students at Emory University in the 1980s. Ray now makes her home in the Northeast Georgia mountains and is continually inspired by the landscape around her.

"It definitely informs or energizes my art and my imagery when I write," she says. "I think there's a link between art and nature - art helps you transcend the separation you have from nature. ... You become part of the sacred rather than the secular."

In addition to their musical accomplishments, both Ray and Saliers are hailed for their political and environmental activism. Along with former Green Party vice presidential candidate Winona LaDuke, they helped to establish Honor the Earth, an organization dedicated to Native American environmental issues.

"You can see the devastation done in coal mining and through hydroelectric plants. A lot of that is in Indian communities and a lot of the fight is right there," Ray said.

Ray recognizes the complexities of the environmental and energy crises and points out that last summer's oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico may have shed more light on the issues.

"I feel like that was a pretty stark example for people," she said. "When we turn the light switch on we're contributing to this system that takes away and is destructive. ... The challenge is to use less, conserve more and support cleaner energy alternatives."

But the Indigo Girls' political activism doesn't end at the environment. Also outspoken against the death penalty, nuclear arms and war, Ray and Saliers have embraced a variety of human rights issues and are definite icons of the gay rights movement. Both are lesbians (though their own relationship has been strictly friendly and musical), Ray and Saliers have been out and proud from the beginning of their musical careers and continue to remain active in the LGBT rights movement.

While mainstream acceptance of homosexuality has certainly come a long way in the more than two decades since the Indigo Girls first found fame, Ray points out that there is still much work to do before true equality is achieved.

"We're not there yet by any stretch of the imagination, there's a disconnect between pop culture and legislation," she said, a disconnect she said is exemplified by this week's continued upholding of the military's "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy.

"When we go to the ballot box to say that marriage is between a man and a woman, people still do that - there's still that line."

Ray is particularly active in the gay youth pride movement and points out the importance of fostering acceptance for young people questioning their sexuality.

Gay youth are up to three times more likely to attempt suicide and are often victims of verbal and physical abuse from families and peers.

"It is so important to be ourselves and be strong and also be open and talk one on one and change people's hearts," Ray said of the road to full equality and acceptance. "A lot of it comes from fear. You have to respect where someone is coming from first and foremost — even that we can talk about it is progress."

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