Amy Rigby - The Old Guys - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Amy Rigby - The Old Guys

by Bill Golembeski Rating:9 Release Date:2018-11-30
Amy Rigby - The Old Guys
Amy Rigby - The Old Guys

A funny thing happened to me on the way to the forum. Well, it wasn’t really a forum. I was just in a Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin pet shop buying a collar for Willamena, my new English setter pup. There was another customer who was wearing a really cool jacket. I simply said, “Nice coat,” as one often does. And then I recognized my fellow dog-lover as none other than Alejandro Escovedo, he of The Nuns, Rank and File, The True Believers, and solo fame. I said, “Holy cow” then, and I still say “Holy Cow” now. Well, we talked music while I tickled his dog, and then I told him that he was “an American national treasure.”

And I’ll say right here and now, if I ever meet Amy Rigby in any kind of store, I will tell her the very same thing.

Allow me to get all literary: The American poet Walt Whitman simply proclaimed the true spirit of democracy when he wrote, “I believe a leaf of grass is no less than the journey-work of the stars” and “the narrowest hinge of my hand puts to scorn all machinery.”

And the music of Amy Rigby, just like the songs of Alejandro Escovedo, celebrates the sad profundity and the equally profound joy of all the stuff that is viewed from any windshield on any street in any town in America in both the dampest rain and brightest sunshine.

Amy Rigby has the voice of a clever waitress who punctuates life with personality in a local café burdened by all the chain fast food restaurants who never pay a living wage. Her music embraces folk, rock, pop, and psych. This stuff gets heavy, and this stuff is wonderfully weird. To quote her song from the brilliant Little Fugitive record, “I’m like Rasputin/I keep coming back.” And, of course, in the very same record, she’s “Dancing with Joey Ramone.” That same glance backward and a desire to “still take chances” continues with the title track of this album, “Old Guys.”

Walt Whitman would be proud.

Now this album, perhaps, rocks a bit more than others. Gone are the pop moves the Elliot Easton of earlier records. Hubby Wreckless Eric (of “Whole World Wide” fame) plays electric guitar with an eccentric Englishman’s quirky and sometimes rather odd and often psych fervor.

So, it all starts with the tune “From PHILIPROTH @ Gmail to R ZIMMERMAN @AOL. Com.” Now, that’s a long and winding tongue-twisting road that’s an equally long blue Jay way from “Love Me Do.” And it’s indicative of Amy’s perchance for the eclectic. This is a big chord heavy tune with drama, that “lays that medal on your crooked heart.” This is urgent rock music.

“Are We Still There Yet” is a typical Amy Rigby clever play on words. It’s rock-pop-psych personified, and it works well with other songs that ponder the past.

But then “Back from Amarillo” is absolutely folk-singer sincerity cut into equally sincere vinyl grooves.  This is lovely stuff that sings to the whole world wide.

There is still more humanity. “Playing Pittsburgh” takes her back home, where she says, in an interview, “My hair always frizzes out and my face breaks out. That’s Pittsburgh to me.”

That’s a very human thing to say.

It’s a very rock ‘n’ roll thing to say.

And Walt Whitman, once again, would be proud.

There’s an x-ray revelation in the record. Sometimes humanity gets frozen, like a Vesuvian ash dump that catches all of us in mid-slow dance life. And it’s always a deep psychological dance. The song “Bob” is this embrace, with poodle skirt perfection and deep slow dance horns that stir that ash with a Wreckless Eric sublime guitar solo. “Leslie” is an equally interesting psychological portrait.

The same is true for the absolute acoustic beauty of “Robert Altman.” This is a song of hope with little chance of redemption. But that slight chance, like some big sweepstakes win, deals every voter’s card in America.  And “Slow Burner” spins spider web gossamer folk mystery that tangles and dangles that chance. Oh, by the way. the enigmatic “New Sheriff” is the heart of this music. It’s lyrically dense and is viscid in its melodic depth. And there is more of Wreckless Eric’s simply profound guitar work. 

The final song, “One Off,” is, once again, a celebration of the common person living (as mentioned in the song “On the Barricade”) during “a day like any other day.” This tune oozes humanity.

In her song “All I Want” from the Middlescence album, Amy sings, “All I want is a pat on the back.” Well, that’s an easy thing to do with a record that rivals the great Ray Davies for its portrayal of “the narrowest hinges” of humanity’s hands and all the “leaves of grass” of everyday life. This is an album of deep beauty, tender melodies, and enough American roll ‘n’ roll to keep us all (unexpectedly) dancing with Joey Ramone for quite some time. Yeah, it’s like fizzy hair in your hometown. And that’s about as great as bumping into a favorite rock musician in some out of the way pet store while, honestly, just buying a collar for my new English setter pup Willamena.

Overall Rating (1)

5 out of 5 stars
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