Amy Rigby
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Music

The best kept secret in music

Press


4 stars
by Robert Christgau

"Confessions of a Mad Talent"

Amy Rigby is a 44-year -old divorcee with a teenaged daughter. Her mind is sharp, her voice is strong, her hormones are coursing and her breasts are hanging in there. Her demographic needs all the music it can get, and she's been writing songs from its evolving perspective since 1996's inspired Diary of a Mod Housewife - songs so heartfelt, pointed and shapely that by now her marginality is an ageist outrage. Confessing miserably that she's "colder than a frozen waffle," wondering whether she and her beau are "ever gonna have sex again", announcing that "there's no secret technique to separating me from this dress", finding perfection in a wink and some Chuck Berry, she's writing more consistently than anyone else in Nashville and finding musicians who know it. Her fourth album is her best since her first, and they're all terrific. Only a putz would tell her no. - MOJO


Best Local Songwriter: Amy Rigby
A New Yorker who relocated to Nashville several years ago, Rigby makes terrific, all-too-overlooked roots-pop records that nail the likes of class, men and "middlescence" with wit, grace and self-deprecating charm. At her quotidian best, though, she sings the song of herself, conveying the blues, as lived by urbanites and suburbanites, like a citified niece of Loretta Lynn. Country radio, are you listening?

--Bill Friskics-Warren - Nashville Scene


Amy Rigby - Five Stars - Til The Wheels Fall Off (Spit & Polish)

Recorded in New York, Nashville and East Kilbride, the fourth album from Pittsburgh native Amy Rigby -- and her debut on Glasgow's excellent Spit & Polish label -- underscores her growing reputation as one of alt.country's most distinctive talents. Who, after all, could resist a title like Are We Ever Gonna Have Sex Again? especially when the song itself unfolds in lines like 'Whatever happened to babe and stud?/Too much KFC and Bud?'A similar straight-talking directness characterises most of Rigby's songwriting, sharpened by wry wit and streetwise irony, yet often conjuring states of ambivalence or confusion, as in the list of (self-) destructive urges catalogued in Why Do I, the all-encompassing jealousy expressed in How People Are, or the mingled celebration and resignation of Breakup Boots. Her raw-edged, throaty vocals range in mood from ballsy to fragile, and some diverse instrumentation -- including clarinet, mellotron, bodhran, harpsichord, viola and trombone -- bring an idiosyncratic twist to her country-folk/roots-rock.

Sue WIlson - Glasgow Sunday Herald


NYC singer-songwriter covered by Ronnie Spector and Laura Cantrell
Rigby wowed plenty with her 1996 debut Diary Of A Mod Housewife, which featured Hal Hartley’s favorite son Ira Kaplan of Yo La Tengo. Rigby’s literate, punchy songs are enhanced this time by country nouveau and power-pop types Ken Coomer, Duane Jarvis and Will Kimbrough, keeping her up to speed with everyone from the No Depression crew to lifestylers like Rolling Stone regulars. Standouts include US radio hit “Are We Ever Gonna Have Sex Again?” and “Breakup Boots” which figure Amy as a bard of relationship mess. She’s obviously aiming higher than clique status, too, as country cat Todd Snider guests on the title cut. Those Nashville suits better watch out.

Max Bell
- Uncut Magazine


...when Liz imagines her son's confusion about her boyfriends on "Little Digger," we're nearing Amy Rigby territory: the realm of real-ass quirk. Onetime Williamsburg housewife, now off-off-Opry single mom and perennial middlescent, Rigby's Til the Wheels Fall Off (a vehicular kindred spirit to raw-rocking Brit Sally Crewe's Drive It Like You Stole It) is yet another batch of cover-ready country-pop too catchy for her own renderings and too smart for Nashville. Rigby's still raunchy for her age too, musing on "Shopping Around" that "I'm getting older/I'm getting wiser/But am I getting laid?" On "Why Do I?" she regrets "always giving in/to my evil twin," who may be advising her on "The Deal," a Carpenters vamp about striking a commitment-free sex bargain. Strings and vibes underscore "How People Are"'s relationship anxiety, and on the slow Wurlitzer-and-wah-wah "Even the Weak Survive," she coaches the brokenhearted, "A good rule of thumb/Count to five/(hundred and five)." "Don't Ever Change" maps the distance she feels from her daughter's teenage headphone world, and in the Pretenders-y "Last Request," she voices the flipside of Mountain Goats' "I hope I lie/And tell everyone you were a good wife," imploring, "Could you please pretend/that you loved me until the end?" That's quirk, my friends, and it's no Fader photo shoot. - Village Voice


...AMY RIGBY'S LYRICAL guise, on the other hand, just keeps on giving. A former member of cheeky early-'90s indie girl group the Shams, Rigby's solo debut, 1996's Diary of a Mod Housewife, laid her out: a shakily married Brooklyn woman with a wry sense of humor, bouncing between temp jobs, nightclubs, and her husband and child. Two years and one divorce later, the title of her second album, Middlescence, summed up her stance: an adult who felt younger than her years and was more than a little tired of struggling to get by.

Now living in Nashville with her daughter and shopping her songs around to people as famous as she deserves to be, the 44-year-old Rigby still mines the same topics. But the new Til the Wheels Fall Off (Signature Sounds) keeps finding ways to make them new——partly because good songs about sexless marriages and watching your kids grow up are rare enough, partly because few songwriters are as pointed, whatever the subject. Or as funny: Wheels' instant classic is the blunt "Are We Ever Gonna Have Sex Again?" in which Rigby admonishes her long-standing partner, "Screw making love/It's way too ambitious/Let's get down on the rug/ After you've finished the dishes/Not now, hon, the eggs are frying/But you get extra points for trying/Maybe I can squeeze you in/Between the PTA and CNN." If there's any justice in the world——or, an even longer bet, in Nashville——someone with a big voice and bigger hair will take it top 20 country pronto. - Seattle Weekly


Discography

Albums: Little Fugitive, Til The Wheels Fall Off, The Sugar Tree, Middlescence, Diary Of A Mod Housewife. New album Little Fugitive to be released late August. Anthology: 18 Again. Tracks receiving airplay: Don't Ever Change, Are We Ever Gonna Have Sex Again, Don't Break The Heart, Keep It To Yourself, Summer Of My Wasted Youth

Photos

Feeling a bit camera shy

Bio

The Ultimate Rock Girl Next Door

Renowned songwriter Amy Rigby’s upcoming fifth album, Little Fugitive, finds the singer, who began her solo career as the Mod Housewife, bringing it all back home. Hailed for her keen eye and sharp wit in tracing the vagaries and victories of modern romance, her new Signature Sounds release finds Rigby promising "I Don't Want To Talk About Love No More." But, of course, she does - getting to the heart of the matter and the heart of the punch line in due course.

For the making of Little Fugitive, Rigby returned to New York City, where she emerged as a solo artist in 1996 with Diary Of A Mod Housewife, a critically acclaimed album that prompted Spin magazine to declare her "Songwriter of the Year" and was voted No. 8 in the annual Village Voice Pazz & Jop critics poll. "It felt like home," she explains. "Going back to New York was like putting back together the pieces of my past and wondering, who am I going be for the rest of my life?"

Rigby co-produced the album with her longtime guitarist Jon Graboff, leading the band of players through a whirlwind two day recording session. "We just sat down, went over a list of songs and talked about what we were going to do, and then went in the next day and did it," she recalls. "It was a great experience. Time seemed to expand and contract to allow us to do what we needed to do. I just enjoyed every minute of it."

The result is a collection that continues to prove Rigby to be the ultimate rock girl next door – strong-willed, sharp-tongued and ready to wrestle you to the barroom floor. Yet it also reflects the wisdom of a grown woman who has made her mark as a consummate artist, penning songs with an emotional honesty and rare incisive humor. And on Little Fugitive, Rigby feels free to color in the songs with stylistic splashes from bright folk chords to stomping rock and 60’s psychedelia.

Rigby grew up in Pittsburgh but ended up in New York soon enough, attending art school amidst the fertile downtown scene of the late 1970s. She describes herself as a "casual listener" before happening upon CBGB’s, the legendary punk rock club on the Bowery. "That was the turning point," she explains. "Suddenly, I was more actively involved with music. I was a part of a scene. And music became the motivating force in my life." She revisits that heady time on "Dancing With Joey Ramone." "It was a dream I had, one of those dreams that felt like it was happening, like maybe it did happen. I got up and immediately wrote the song."

By the early 1980s, Rigby had taken up the guitar and was writing songs, playing and singing with her brother and some friends in Last Roundup, an urban country string band that recorded an album for Rounder Records, toured the U.S., and was a precursor of the Americana movement a decade later. She followed that with another group, the all female folk-pop trio The Shams, who released an album and EP on the trendsetting Matador label. And she married and had a child.

Marriage, motherhood and divorce informed her solo debut Diary Of A Mod Housewife (produced by former Cars guitarist Elliot Easton). It earned her considerable musical acclaim as well as becoming a text for women's studies courses, marking Rigby as a musical voice for thoroughly modern women (and the men that love them).

She has since built a catalog of releases that are "all terrific," according to Robert Christgau, the "Dean of American Rock Critics." Along the way, Rigby moved to Nashville, had her songs have been covered by rock legend Ronnie Spector, They Might Be Giants/John Flansburgh, Laura Cantrell, Jonell Mosser and Maria Doyle Kennedy, and drew comparisons to exalted songwriters like Elvis Costello and Richard Thompson. The Chicago Reader simply hails Rigby as an artist with "no peer on the current pop scene."

Her canny perspective on contemporary womanhood has also resonated beyond records and the live performance stage. She was the keynote speaker at the 1999 conference of the International Association for the Study of Popular Music, organized and moderated a "Rock Parenting 101" panel for the South By Southwest Music & Media Conference, and has spoken and performed at such diverse events as the Southern Festival of Books and the 2000 Rockrgrl convention in Seattle.

Now with Little Fugitive, Rigby tops herself again. Its title comes from the groundbreaking 1953 independent film by Morris Engel and Ruth Orkin, and reflects her view of herself, at age 46, as a traveling troubadour performing across North America and Europe. It also finds Rigby at a fulcrum in her personal and artistic development, considering both where she has been and where she is now headed. This juncture of past and future is indicated on the album by the presence of such back-up singers as her former band mates in The Shams and her 16-year-old daughter Hazel, a budding musical talent in her own right.

As the