Listeners who rallied around Stag, Amy Ray's 2001 collection of punk-kissed roots rock, will find Prom to be an equal if not better slice of "blue state" Americana swathed in a "red state" wrapper. The darker half of the Indigo Girls has tapped into her Southern past and created a record that manages to paint youth as a struggle against both colors of the political spectrum. It's hard to balance sweetness and anger, but Ray -- who always manages to find a kind of winsome humor somewhere in the middle -- makes it look easy, and her not-so-subtle mix of attitude, nostalgia, and compassion makes for a perfectly enlightening road trip of an album. Prom starts out strong with the one-two punch of "Put It Out for Good" ("The stadium lights were breaking through the bleachers/I spent all day pushing tissue roses into chicken wire") and "Driver Education" ("Films and drills and safety illustrations/The crushed cars of driver education"). Both cuts paint the kind of country high-school experience that fueled John Cougar Mellencamp to sing about "Jack and Diane" and Tom Petty to salute his "American Girl," but Ray's youth was more than just "Drinking with the older guys/Tripping by the lakeside." On "Rural Faggot" she comforts a friend on the verge of "coming out" in a small town -- "I know you want to change the truth/We were made by nature's fools" -- and "Let It Ring," with its pounding snare/mandolin attack, is as rousing a challenge to the conservative right's hijacking of faith as any fiery pundit with a hidden earpiece. Musically, Prom hits all the right notes, blending crushing guitars and surging drums with enough melodic picking and strumming to satisfy both "folkies" and "rockers." Ray's vision for a band that would be the direct antithesis of the Indigo Girls may have been met, but it's lost none of the duo's heart, and hearing it cranked to 11 just makes it all the more compelling.
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AllMusic Review by James Christopher Monger