Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Pass the Mic

On Diary of a Mod Housewife, Amy Rigby is songwriter of the year--terse, poignant, literal, funny, good enough for the Nashville she's too good for--and sticks with her husband through struggle and boredom. In real life, she's a 37-year-old temp worker who's separated from ex-dB Will and takes eight-year-old Hazel to school on the subway in the morning.

"I won the Temp of the Month award last summer," Rigby says over breakfast after dropping Hazel off. "I was administrative assistant at Sony. I always felt like such a loser there; all the people I'm working for are like 10 years younger than me. But I just decided I'm going to get over this feeling, I'm just gonna get all the free CDs I can."

In her other worklife, Rigby left the acoustic three-women Shams and by mid-1995 had cut 12 solo songs with buddies from the New York scene, where she goes back to vintage CBGB--touring Brits crashed regularly on her Alphabet City floor. But no one would put the album out until ex-Car Elliot Easton tapped Rigby for his first production. "He said, `I hear what you're getting at, I think I can help you do it better,' and I said that's exactly the attitude I want. He'd say how about a little Bakersfield in there and I'd say great."

Crammed with tunes you're sure you remember from somewhere, the rave-reviewed Mod Housewife adds seven new songs to five from the tape, and Rigby is determined to tour behind it even though it fits no niche--too rough for country, too rock for folk, too singer-songwriter for "alternative." "Some people go buy a house, but I have a record out now, and I want to make the most of it. If I have to take my credit card out and pay, I'll do that."

These days she's temping less and "buying a little freedom" by taking in boarders. Her long-term dream is a few years of touring with Hazel along and a house in the country. But for now, well, "I'd love to have my own little recording studio where I could make better demos, eight tracks would be good, because what I make is too crappy to play back. I'd just like a decent microphone, I'm not asking for too much. And I wouldn't mind having a real electric guitar."

(with Carola Dibbell)

Spin, Jan. 1997