[1 September 2010]
American Amy Rigby and Brit Wreckless Eric certainly are a cute couple, and the fact that they have found happiness making music together is heartwarming. But as Ezra Pound once warned, “I believe in every man knowing enough of music to play ‘God bless our home’ on the harmonium, but I do not believe in every man giving concerts and printing his sin.” The perils of putting out a record of “Family Favourites” or cover songs that two people in love enjoy singing together reveals this can be a dangerous prospect. What might be magical in a domestic moment might also turn out to be dreck in the cold light of day.
That said, the duo’s lo-fi collaboration is a mixed affair. There are no truly outstanding moments, but some darn good ones, such as the deliciously delicate rendition of the Beach Boys’ classic ode to loneliness, “In My Room”. Rigby begins by softly singing the words, joined midway by Eric’s purposefully emphatic, bang your head vocals as if to make the pain and pleasures of being by oneself one and the same. The spacey instrumentation adds to the effect of the feeling of being lost inside one’s own head.
The duo’s cover of Abba’s “Fernando” is unabashedly sweet. Rigby offers up the lyrics straight, without a trace of camp or irony. The background instrumentation swirls around in enchantment. Eric also sings Tom Petty’s “Walls” with a frank delivery and an ache in his voice. Rigby’s harmonies neatly add to the effect of sincerity.
But alas, some other covers come off as simply odd without being inspired, such as the 27-second oddity that combines the folk tune “Loch Lomond” with the Bay City Roller’s “Bye Bye Baby” (called “Scotland Then & Now” here) or the low key version of Pete Townshend’s “Endless Wire” that drones rather than gather steam. The two raise the volume of their voices, but the passion comes off as forced. The other tracks are somewhere in the middle. The more unknown ones, such as Plummet Airlines’ “Silver Shirt” and the Flamin Groovies’ “You Tore Me Down” may be of interest because of their obscurity, but the covers here are nothing special. The more familiar ones, like Jackie DeShannon’s “Put a Little Love in Your Heart” and the Byrds’ “Ballad of Easy Rider”, lack anything of particular interest as well. They are just merely competent covers.
Covers albums are always iffy affairs. If the songs are already so good, there is no reason to perform them again differently. If the songs lack something, than why bother to redo them. Rigby and Eric keep things short. The disc clocks in at less than 40 minutes, as if they know the pleasures of singing together may be fun for them and their loyal fans, but tire the average listener if the duo goes on too long. Just like family vacations can be a great time if the group doesn’t stay away too long and the drive there isn’t too long, etc., Two-Way Family Favourites is best enjoyed in short, selective doses.