Wreckless Eric & Amy Rigby
Two-Way Family Favourites
Sometimes the right people just find each other. That certainly seems to be the case with Wreckless Eric (Eric Goulden), the cockney-voiced, punk era Stiff Records hit maker (“Whole Wide World,” “Take the Cash (K-A-S-H)”) and Amy Rigby, who on albums like her 1996 solo debut Diary of a Mod Housewife humorously detailed the dissolution of her marriage (to dBs drummer Will Rigby) and her efforts to date as a single mom while effortlessly combining elements of pop, rock, and folk. Together, they are two rock and roll survivors with plenty of miles behind them but lots of stories left to tell.
Unlike most of their 2008 self-titled first album as a duo however, the stories on Two-Way Family Favourites are not their own. While that album featured ten originals and one cover (Johnny Cash’s “I Still Miss Someone”), this one is an eclectic collection of tunes originally recorded by the likes of Tom Petty, The Byrds, and ABBA.
The ringing Rickenbacker guitar and subtle ’60s psychedelia on the duo’s opening rendition of “Put a Little Love in Your Heart” is nearly enough to rescue that song from its previous cheery, overly familiar incarnations.
Petty’s “Walls” may be the perfect song to showcase Wreckless Eric’s sad sack cockney lilt. Rigby provides sweet harmonies. ABBA’s “Fernando” on the other hand, while a pretty song, may be a bit too, um, sincere for these two. Their version is marred by an off-tempo bass part as well. Likewise, their attempt at The Beach Boys “In My Room,” while admirable, may be just a little too ambitious when judged alongside the more humble pleasures on the rest of the disc. Much better is their take on The Byrds “Ballad of Easy Rider,” which explores some interesting rough-hewn harmonies.
There are some even more unexpected choices here as well. The duo tackles the title track from The Who’s overlooked 2006 comeback record Endless Wire and turns it into something really interesting. P.F. Sloan’s “I Get Out of Breath” (recorded by The Turtles) is a bit sour sounding here, but The Flamin’ Groovies “You Tore Me Down” is a bona fide lost classic that the duo does justice to with more ringing Rickenbacker.
But the record’s real finds are the psychedelic Nicky Chinn/Mike Chapman-penned “Living Next Door to Alice” (recorded by Smokie) and especially the set-closing “Silver Shirt,” a magnificently elegiac, Stones-y number originally recorded by Plummet Airlines, one of Wreckless Eric’s former Stiff Records labelmates (which featured future Pogues bassist Darryl Hunt among others).
All in all, Two-Way Family Favourites is a pleasant flip through a very cool record collection with a couple of old friends. It’s a record made with few frills but lots of love and apparent joy. It’s hard to ask for much more than that.