Music News

Indigo Girls toast "Happy Days" on holiday album

DETROIT (Billboard) - The Indigo Girls’ upcoming holiday album, “Holly Happy Days,” is the rarest of entries in the folk-rock duo’s catalog.

“We just both had a desire to do it at the same time, which doesn’t always happen with us,” Emily Saliers told

The 12-track set, due out Tuesday (October 12), features bluegrass- and Appalachian-flavored versions of standards such as “Oh Holy Night,” “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” (with Julie Wolf) and “Angels We Have Heard on High,” as well as less celebrated fare including “In the Bleak Midwinter,” Chely Wright’s “It Really Is (A Wonderful Life),” Beth Nielsen Chapman’s “There’s Still My Joy” and Mike Burn’s “Peace Child.”

Janis Ian and Mary Gautier join the Indigos for a rendition of Woody Guthrie’s “Happy Joyous Hanukkah,” and Saliers and Emily Ray wrote three original songs for the album: “The Wonder Song,” “Misteltoe” and the buoyant “Your Holiday Song.”

“We spent a long time listening through Christmas songs,” Saliers said. “Our manager gave us a million different Christmas songs, Hanukkah songs ... we went through everything and started out with a bunch of songs we were super, super excited about. Singing someone else’s songs (is) easier than recording your own for whatever reason, although there’s a lot of self-pressure in that you want to make them your own song.”

The Indigos recorded “Holly Happy Days” in Nashville with producer Peter Collins and an all-star band -- Victor Krauss on bass, Alison Brown on banjo, Lloyd Maines on dobro and pedal steel, Luke Bulla on fiddle and Jim Brock on percussion. Good pal Brandi Carlile sang harmonies on several tracks.

“It was maybe the most fun I’ve ever had making a record,” Saliers said, “loving your job and getting excited every morning to get up and go into the studio. It was a joy. And to have those players who are just world-class, incredible, inspiring players, you can’t believe the stuff they come up with. It makes you want to never play guitar again.”

As for the musical approach, she said that “both Amy and I love Appalachian and bluegrass music, and we just thought it would be so much fun to have it be of that ilk.”

The Indigos aren’t dipping into the holiday material for their current U.S. tour, which runs through November 6, but Saliers said they’re putting together a small number of special holiday shows for December with the band and some of the guests who appear on the album.

Meanwhile, Ray is working on her fourth solo studio album, while Saliers is collaborating on some music for an independent film currently titled “That’s What She Said” and is still writing a hoped-for solo album of her own.