Amy Rigby

Time For Me To Come DownDiary Of A Mod Housewife
Beer & KissesDiary Of A Mod Housewife
20 QuestionsDiary Of A Mod Housewife
All I WantMiddlescence
The Summer Of My Wasted YouthMiddlescence
Rode HardThe Sugar Tree
BallsThe Sugar Tree
Don't Ever ChangeTil The Wheels Fall Off
Are We Ever Going To Have Sex Again?Til The Wheels Fall Off
Dancing With Joey RamoneLittle Fugitive


Amy Rigby playlist


Contributor: Marc Fagel

First making her mark in the mid-90s, Amy Rigby quickly established herself as one of the most distinctive American singer-songwriters of the era. With a style that veers from traditional Americana and folk to more radio-friendly pop and jangly rock, Rigby’s heart-on-her-sleeve yet warmly humorous songwriting and vulnerable, unadorned singing style is emotionally naked and brutally frank. More than anything, she writes songs for grown-ups, taking on themes like single parenthood, adult courtship, and barely-scraping-by existence much like Liz Phair had embraced young adulthood and sexuality a few years prior.

Rigby had kicked around the New York indie scene for several years before emerging as a solo artist. She played with early Americana (if not straight country) act The Last Roundup, whose long out-of-print 1987 LP Twister falls somewhere between Patsy Cline and Lone Justice. She then assembled The Shams, an all-woman harmony trio not far afield from the Roches. Sadly, they too stuck around for a single album, 1991’s also out-of-print Quilt, and the band’s brevity and the album’s rarity are a real shame, as the exuberant harmonies, buoyed by Rigby’s incisive songwriting, were a real treat.

Rigby spent the next few years touring with the Shams, raising her baby, and trying to launch a solo career. When she emerged with her 1996 solo debut, Diary Of A Mod Housewife, the musical breadth and lyrical poignancy came as something of a revelation. Stylistically, the record is surprisingly varied, the work of an imaginative musician (supported by a top-notch studio crew) equally comfortable in the worlds of pop, country, and rock. But it’s the lyrics that grab you by the throat. Rigby had recently been through a divorce (from Will Rigby, drummer for the legendary indie power-pop band The dB’s), but you didn’t need to know her backstory to tell exactly where her head was at. The songs are riddled with love, longing, breakups, and new beginnings, both bitter and laugh-out loud funny.

Time For Me To Come Down is a perfect opener, a literal and metaphorical return from a singer coming out of either early retirement or anesthesia, depending on the verse. She’s got you eating out of her hand by Beer & Kisses, a sweetly sad autobiographical tale, a young couple with a baby finding themselves on the rocks (featuring John Wesley Harding on guest vocals). The earnestness of that one is matched by the more confrontational (and hysterical) 20 Questions, a rollicking updating of Dylan’s Subterranean Homesick Blues with Amy calling out her cheating fella. “Why are you coming in at 3 a.m., looking several shades of green? Smelling like a perfume insert from a woman’s magazine?” But by the end, as her accusatory questions devolve into “Do you still find me attractive? What time do you have to get up in the morning? Oh, and by the way when are you gonna get a real job?” it’s a little trickier to choose sides.

The debut provides plenty of other highlights. The stripped-down Knapsack finds the older woman quietly crushing on the young guy working at the book store; while That Tone Of Voice is a two-chord rocker in a Sister Ray vein, with the sort of clever lyrical hook – “Don’t look at me in that tone of voice!” – that every country singer on the planet should be stealing.


Following that remarkable debut, Rigby released four additional records over the next dozen or so years, each a winning blend of deeply affecting songwriting and despite-it-all good humor. 1998’s Middlescence is highlighted by the bittersweet coming-of-age nostalgia of The Summer Of My Wasted Youth, a moving look back on her early twenties. “Summertime in ’83, the last time I took LSD. But listening to Patsy Cline and Skeeter Davis really blew my mind … Summertime in ’83, I didn’t need a j-o-b, ‘cuz unemployment kept me free to study country harmony.” All I Want is another heartbreaking failing relationship song, its cutting words eased along by a deceptively upbeat jangle: “I don’t want flowers or fancy things. I gave up on a diamond ring. I just want a little pat on the back from you, not another little subtle attack from you.” Other stand-outs include What I Need, a brilliantly funny yet wistful look at a single mom trying to invite the new guy home with her kids sleeping upstairs; and the garage-rocking As Is, an earnest tale of trying to shop amidst working poverty.


2000’s The Sugar Tree offered up one of Rigby’s most infectious tunes yet, the rocking Balls, a pointed lament of the on-demand girlfriend wishing she could grow a pair. “I’ve been seeing a pattern here, how you get lost when I get too near. Then you come around maybe once a week, like some guys go out to bowl.” Nearly as great is the radio-ready country-rock Rode Hard, this time the singer finding a little more joy in her anarchic, single existence. “A person could get their hand blown off reaching, there’s some things you really shouldn’t touch. A guy told me that I was asking for trouble, I had to kick his ass, didn’t like it much.”

The highlights of these first 3 albums can be found on 2002’s well-curated 18 Again anthology.


For 2003’s Til The Wheels Fall Off, Rigby conjured up another slice of witty grown-up humor, this time setting her sights on the conjugal bed in the funny, frank Are We Ever Going To Have Sex Again? “Life’s become a great big list, of things to do and buy and fix. At night we pass out before ten. Are we ever gonna have sex again?” But the real set-piece is the devastating Don’t Ever Change, a gently finger-picked acoustic tune in the vein of Daniel Johnston’s Speeding Motorcycle or Big Star’s Thirteen, Amy finding heartwarming joy in the company of strangers, her teenage daughter, and her no-good man. “The radio was playing a Chuck Berry song, and he was looking at me asking what was wrong. I made a list of the things I could say, but he gave me a wink and it all went away. I told him, ‘Hey, I love you, you’re perfect, don’t ever change.’” Honestly, this one makes me tear up like a baby. Every. Damn. Time.


Rigby wrapped up this delightful 5-LP run with 2005’s Little Fugitive, another varied batch of tunes, this time highlighted by the upbeat rocker Dancing With Joey Ramone, relating a dream about the late Ramones singer with a mix of love and reverence.

Since then, Rigby’s career has been more peripatetic. The perpetually single woman depicted in so many heartfelt songs finally settled down, pairing up musically and romantically with Eric Goulden (better known as UK first wave punk & pub rocker Wreckless Eric). In the years following Fugitive, Rigby and Wreckless Eric released several albums as a duo, while periodically touring together; Rigby finally returned with her first solo album of new material in 2018, The Old Guys. Rigby has also released a few collections of home recordings and early demos and, more recently, has added some fun online singles to her repertoire. A personal fave among these is Tom Petty Karaoke — another adoring love letter to a late rocker in the vein of Joey Ramone, with a true fan’s appreciation of Petty’s work.

Following years of sharing personal anecdotes and observations on her long-running blog, Rigby wrote a terrific autobiography, 2019’s “Girl To City: A Memoir” (along with hosting an accompanying podcast), which made for great company in the early days of Covid.

Most of Amy’s music can be found on Bandcamp (along with, helpfully, the lyrics for most songs). Do check her out!




Amy Rigby memoir

Girl To City: A Memoir


Official Amy Rigby website

Diary of Amy Rigby (her long-running blog)

Amy Rigby (Wikipedia)

Amy Rigby Bandcamp

Trouser Press record guide

Amy Rigby biography (AllMusic)

Marc Fagel is a semi-retired securities lawyer living outside San Francisco with his wife and his obscenely oversized music collection. He is the author of the rock lover’s memoir “Jittery White Guy Music”. His daily ruminations on random albums in his collection can be seen on his blog of the same name, or by following him on twitter.

Marc’s previous posts include Young Fresh Fellows, Josh Ritter, The Hold Steady, Game Theory, The Reivers, The Shazam, Guided by Voices, The Connells, Big Audio Dynamite, Sleater-Kinney, Liz Phair, Elephant 6, Apples in Stereo, Sweet, The Bats, Matthew Sweet, Badfinger, New Pornographers, Bettie Serveert, Flaming Lips, Neil Young, My Morning Jacket, Raveonettes, Phish, Luna, Jesus and Mary Chain, Feelies, Genesis, Wilco, King Crimson, Brian Eno

TopperPost #1,045

1 Comment

  1. Dave Stephens
    Jan 15, 2023

    In the gaps between churning out Toppermosts I do sometimes remember to read some (and I should read much more). So it was with Amy Rigby. Early mentions of “country rock” and “Patsy Cline & Skeeter Davis” gave reassurance that I’d probably find that Ms Rigby and my taste buds might well find some accord. However I confess that initially there wasn’t as much empathy as I was expecting between self and the clips – with hindsight I suspect I might have preferred the studio versions. Just before the end though that all changed. “Dancing With Joey Ramone” was 100% turn-on – not that I’m a mega-Ramones fan but all just worked, perfectly (and she saved the only real Ramones pastiche contained within till the very end and presented it with such brevity that you were left wanting more, prior to that we were treated to such delights as Gene Vincent hand-clapping). Pop but great pop. After that your words persuaded me to drop back to the studio take of “Don’t Ever Change” and I was hooked. This lady has made some great music and I look forward to exploring her career. Many thanks for an excellent introduction.

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