Amy Rigby Sings About 'The Old Guys' on Her New Album

Publicity photo via Bandcamp

"In my mind, I'm Nucky Thompson. In my mind, I'm Tony Soprano. In my mind, I'm WALTER WHITE," Amy Rigby croons before shouting.

The Old Guys
Amy Rigby

Southern Domestic Recordings

23 Feb 2018

When Bob Dylan won the Nobel Prize for Literature back in 2016, many of us wondered what Philip Roth thought about it. Literary intellectuals have proclaimed Roth as the greatest living American writer, one of the best this country has ever produced, but he's never been awarded the Nobel for his achievements. Roth has been known to be tetchy. Did the now 84-year-old wordsmith piss and moan that the young 76-year-old whipper snatcher snatched up the prize with verse put to music instead of the printed page? More importantly, was it good for the Jews? That's a joke I hope these two venerable authors would hopefully understand and appreciate.

So, what does this young shiksa, okay maybe not so young but not so old either, have to say about the affair? Amy Rigby broaches the subject on the very first song of her new record, The Old Guys. The track takes the form of an email, "From [email protected] to [email protected]". For Rigby, Roth understands his time has passed. He's philosophical about the whole thing. This conceit pervades many of the other 11 self-penned songs on the record. Rigby writes with the wisdom of age, or at least from the lessons experience has taught her. One day you are champ, the next you're a tramp.

The self-reflexivity of the lyrics makes them personal. When Rigby sings in the first person, the listener presumes she's honest. Who knows if the facts are true—they have the ring of truth with maybe some artistic embellishment. When she sings about "Playing Pittsburgh", her old hometown that she couldn't wait to leave, you can feel her desire for freedom. It's unclear if things happened just the way she said or if she still has those feelings about the town. It's a blues number. It's also funny. Consider this two-line verse about the Steeltown's most famous artist: "Andy Warhol's dead and in the ground / It's the only way they could get him back to town." Rigby has a dark sense of humor and compares herself to Carrie before the blood spills down on her.

The album was produced by Rigby's husband, Wreckless Eric. He keeps the sound a bit fuzzy—even dirty—to add a street authenticity to the disc. When there is a spotless quiet, it's usually to announce that an abrasive instrumental noise is coming. And when Rigby delivers lines about being evil, Eric has her do it sweetly (at least at first). "In my mind, I'm Nucky Thompson. In my mind, I'm Tony Soprano. In my mind, I'm WALTER WHITE", Rigby croons before shouting out her conclusion followed by a minute of instrumental clamor full of feedback.

Rigby has a sweet voice. She may not have a great vocal range, but she makes up for it through her expressive phrasing. Rigby never strains to reach a note or hold her breath unless she is singing a line where the narrator would be straining for something or clenching for support. There is a conversational quality to the disc as a whole. She may never have won a Super Bowl ring like the heroes of her birthplace. Her life and career may have had its ups and downs. But like The Old Guys of her title song, she's still here and says thanks for that.







A Fresh Look at Free Will and Determinism in Terry Gilliam's '12 Monkeys'

Prof. Susanne Kord gets to the heart of the philosophical issues in Terry Gilliam's 1995 time-travel dystopia, 12 Monkeys.


The Devonns' Debut Is a Love Letter to Chicago Soul

Chicago's the Devonns pay tribute the soul heritage of their city with enough personality to not sound just like a replica.


Jaye Jayle's 'Prisyn' Is a Dark Ride Into Electric Night

Jaye Jayle salvage the best materials from Iggy Pop and David Bowie's Berlin-era on Prisyn to construct a powerful and impressive engine all their own.


Kathleen Edwards Finds 'Total Freedom'

Kathleen Edwards is back making music after a five-year break, and it was worth the wait. The songs on Total Freedom are lyrically delightful and melodically charming.


HBO's 'Lovecraft Country' Is Heady, Poetic, and Mangled

Laying the everyday experience of Black life in 1950s America against Cthulhuian nightmares, Misha Green and Jordan Peele's Lovecraft Country suggests intriguing parallels that are often lost in its narrative dead-ends.


Jaga Jazzist's 'Pyramid' Is an Earthy, Complex, Jazz-Fusion Throwback

On their first album in five years, Norway's Jaga Jazzist create a smooth but intricate pastiche of styles with Pyramid.


Finding the Light: An Interview with Kathy Sledge

With a timeless voice that's made her the "Queen of Club Quarantine", Grammy-nominated vocalist Kathy Sledge opens up her "Family Room" and delivers new grooves with Horse Meat Disco.


'Bigger Than History: Why Archaeology Matters'

On everything from climate change to gender identity, archaeologists offer vital insight into contemporary issues.


'Avengers: Endgame' Culminates 2010's Pop Culture Phenomenon

Avengers: Endgame features all the expected trappings of a superhero blockbuster alongside surprisingly rich character resolutions to become the most crowd-pleasing finalés to a long-running pop culture series ever made.


Max Richter's 'VOICES' Is an Awe-Inspiring and Heartfelt Soundscape

Choral singing, piano, synths, and an "upside-down" orchestra complement crowd-sourced voices from across the globe on Max Richter's VOICES. It rewards deep listening, and acts as a global rebuke against bigotry, extremism and authoritarianism.


DYLYN Dares to "Find Myself" by Facing Fears and Life's Dark Forces (premiere + interview)

Shifting gears from aspiring electropop princess to rock 'n' rule dream queen, Toronto's DYLYN is re-examining her life while searching for truth with a new song and a very scary-good music video.


JOBS Make Bizarre and Exhilarating Noise with 'endless birthdays'

Brooklyn experimental quartet JOBS don't have a conventional musical bone in their body, resulting in a thrilling, typically off-kilter new album, endless birthdays.


​Nnamdï' Creates a Lively Home for Himself in His Mind on 'BRAT'

Nnamdï's BRAT is a labyrinth detailing the insular journey of a young, eclectic DIY artist who takes on the weighty responsibility of reaching a point where he can do what he loves for a living.


Monte Warden and the Dangerous Few Play It Cool​

Austin's Monte Warden and the Dangerous Few perform sophisticatedly unsophisticated jazz/Americana that's perfect for these times


Eleanor Underhill Takes Us to the 'Land of the Living' (album stream)

Eleanor Underhill's Land of the Living is a diverse album drawing on folk, pop, R&B, and Americana. It's an emotionally powerful collection that inspires repeated listens.


How Hawkwind's First Voyage Helped Spearhead Space Rock 50 Years Ago

Hawkwind's 1970 debut opened the door to rock's collective sonic possibilities, something that connected them tenuously to punk, dance, metal, and noise.


Graphic Novel 'Cuisine Chinoise' Is a Feast for the Eyes and the Mind

Lush art and dark, cryptic fables permeate Zao Dao's stunning graphic novel, Cuisine Chinoise.


Alanis Morissette's 'Such Pretty Forks in the Road' Is a Quest for Validation

Alanis Morissette's Such Pretty Forks in the Road is an exposition of dolorous truths, revelatory in its unmasking of imperfection.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.