Amy Rigby

Friday, April 21; Side Door

Apr 19, 2000 at 4:00 am
The line on Amy Rigby is that she's really Liz Phair, two or three kids later. The line -- surprise -- is stupid. Sure, she likes to do it, too, loves to sing about it, but Rigby's sexual politics are more incendiary because at heart they're more vulnerable and more mature. Spin once named her "Songwriter of the Year," which, given that fashion folio's comprehension of songwriting, should immediately trigger spasms of skepticism. But Rigby's songs, as evidenced on Diary of a Mod Housewife and Middlescence, flash a Wildean wit and love of language, a tuned-in-ness to the fears and fancies of women (sure, and men, too) we've all known and been. Rigby, moreover, succeeds with everything you hate about singer/songwriters. She's nakedly confessional about her sex life, dwells on mundane stuff like getting the gum out of her daughter's hair and dabbles in such trivialities as pop psychology and pop culture. "Summertime in '83, the last time I took LSD," she sings on "Summer of My Wasted Youth," "But listening to Patsy Cline/and Skeeter Davis really blew my mind/Played the boom box in the courtyard/Never used a credit card."

And her musical sensibility is just as devil-may-care and charmingly and disarmingly frivolous. Middlescence has Raincoats stingers, balletic Brazilian pop, "Gentle on My Mind" folk, and supper-club piano torch. "I've always listened to a variety of music," Rigby says, "and lately I've felt more comfortable incorporating it all. It's really just convenience, for record stores or radio, that dictates having to be one genre or another. Most people have really varied record collections. They don't say, 'Oh my God, one song is country-rock, one song has strings!'"

For her new, as-yet-untitled record (due out this summer), Rigby, who lives in Nashville, worked with Brad Jones (Jill Sobule's producer) and Elijah Shaw (formerly of St. Louis's Three Fried Men). She's moving further into the unclassifiable, and those who attend her Friday show will get a taste of her latest pop delights, delivered by a full band. "I don't like music that excludes people by being too clever," she says. "That's what I like in books, movies and songs; I like things that allow people to come closer. That's why I like pop music; I like things that are superficial. In the NPR world, everything has to be clever, insightful and well done. But I like trash; I like it all." (RK)