Amy Rigby emerges with new solo album, show at Club Cafe
Amy Rigby's new album, "The Old Guys," is her first solo effort since 2005's "Little Fugitive." Since then the Mt. Lebanon native, who lives in upstate New York, recorded music and toured her with husband, Eric Goulden (better known as Wreckless Eric). She wrote a memoir, as yet unpublished, and also worked at a bookstore.
But Rigby's heart – and her strength – is as a songwriter with a boundless range and keen eye for detail.
"(Songwriting) is what got me into playing music and I guess that's what still compels me to keep going," says Rigby, who appears March 2 at Club Café, South Side.
"The Old Guys" showcases Rigby's immense talents that have been evident since her 1996 solo debut, "Diary of a Mod Housewife." That highly praised record – Village Voice critic Robert Christgau called it the "concept album of the year" – illustrated Rigby's penchant for songs that are unique and personal.
Rigby has spent some time in Nashville, trying to write for other artists. But her songs, as accomplished as they are, didn't quite translate to other artists.
"My songs always have specifics in them," she says. "… Maybe this time, I'm not even thinking about if this would put somebody off, relating to it. I think I've learned from some of the prose writing I've done on my blog that the more specific you can get, the more you're willing to take a chance about what something means to you, that's what opens it up to someone else."
Rigby's songs reflect her interests in literature and film. Titles include "From firstname.lastname@example.org to email@example.com" to "Robert Altman." These interests are a byproduct of her childhood, during which she participated in a young artists program at the Carnegie Museum of Art in Oakland and often went to the Denis Theater in Mt. Lebanon.
"Some people use classic images, like trains," she says. "Mine are more like pop culture references, but they feel so powerful and important to me. I know that I'm not alone in that, in the times we grew up in. Film and TV and music, that was our common language. It felt like a lot of it was being reinvented at that time."
One song in particular reflects Rigby's experiences growing up in a town dominated by sports. "Playing Pittsburgh" is her trenchant appraisal of struggling for recognition during the Steeler's glory days in the 1970s. She sings: "I lack self-esteem, it's a Pittsburgh thing/you just ain't worth nothing without that Super Bowl ring.'
"The arts were always there, but they weren't real life," says Rigby, who was born in 1959. " … Because of the Carnegie Museums and all the libraries, it did seem like there was some kind of belief in the arts in Pittsburgh, but it definitely seemed like it was more a rarity, and separate from the everyday. The everyday was everybody cutting school and going to Three Rivers Stadium for the opening day of the Pirates. And I don't even know if we had to cut school. I think they told us we had the day off."
Rigby's show at Club Café starts at 7 p.m., with opening act Lonesome Bob. Admission is $10. Details: 412-431-4950, clubcafelive.com.
Billy Price in Greaseland
Pittsburgh's soul ambassador, Billy Price, recently went to Greaseland Studios in San Jose, Calif., to record new material with noted producer Kid Anderson. Here's a behind-the-scenes look at Price in the studio with some famed soul musicians, including bassist Jerry Jemmott.
Shows of Note
Dokken, March 14, Jergel's Rhythm Grille, Warrendale
The big hair is mostly gone, but Don Dokken and his bandmates are still cranking out those huge riffs and chords that made songs made "Breaking the Chains" and "In My Dreams" head-banging anthems. 724-799-8333, jergels.com
Grant-Lee Phillips with Kristin Hersh, March 17, Club Cafe
If you want a little sanity on St. Patrick's Day, Phillips might be the ticket. A superb songwriter, Phillips' new album is "Widdershins." Opening act Kristin Hersh is best known for her tenure in Throwing Muses. 412-431-4950, clubcafelive.com
An Acoustic Evening with Shawn Colvin and Lyle Lovett, March 18, Carnegie Music Hall, Oakland
Either performer on this bill would be worth the price of admission. That Colvin and Lovett – both superb storytellers – are performing together makes this a must-see show. 800-745-3000, ticketmaster.com
Alan Jackson, PPG Paints Arena, March 24
Jackson's one of the few country artists that stayed true to his honky-tonk roots while earning a mainstream following. A 2018 inductee into the Songwriters Hall of Fame, Jackson's authenticity is refreshing in an age when so much of much of music is artifice, not art. 800-745-3000, ticketmaster.com