Amy Ray has a thing for birds. On her 2018 country album Holler, she had two songs about sparrows and dueted with Brandi Carlile on “Bird in the Hand” on Ray’s Lung of Love LP. In the new song “Chuck Will’s Widow,” the singer, songwriter and one-half of Indigo Girls draws inspiration from the bird of the same name, a nightjar cousin of the whippoorwill.
“You can sing when you should be sleeping/because that’s when the world is your weepin’,” Ray sings in the country ballad, as pedal steel and accordion strike a somber tone and the War and Treaty’s Michael and Tanya Trotter provide harmonies.
The song arrives with a music video directed by Luke Pilgrim and Brad Kennedy that follows two friends (clutching a book titled Birdsongs by the Season) as they try to evade a nightwatchman.
“The songs of the Chuck-will’s-widow…have always haunted me, their relentless, compelling exchange happens all night when the summer comes to my neck of the woods,” Ray says in a statement. “I find that I witness the most profound moments in the midst of their songs, when everyone else is asleep. While I am often in need of rest, the respite I find in being awake under a miraculous and melodic night sky is too tempting for me to sleep. It’s a conundrum that inspires me, but also leaves me bleary eyed.”
Ray performs in Atlanta on Friday night at the Brookhaven Cherry Blossom Summer Block Party, and has two more shows this weekend in North Carolina.
“I just wanted to get out and play some of our new songs, continue our thread, and have fun,” she said, teasing another solo album to come. “Hopefully this will inspire some more songwriting. We really want get back into the studio in December 2021 and record together, ya know, live in person. This band thrives on being together in both a live and a studio setting. I want to get enough songs recorded to release a vinyl LP.”