After a tour de force that anatomized a dying marriage and a follow-up that redefined midlife crisis for the young at heart, The Sugar Tree marks Rigby's relocation from Brooklyn to Nashville by proving she doesn't need a conceptual hatrack to hang songs from--it's stronger than Middlescence, which would have caused a sensation if it hadn't been overshadowed by Mod Housewife. Rigby is still a divorcee without money struggling for respect and a little nookie while staring down the big 4-0. But that's deep background now. In good Nashville fashion, she devotes herself to surveying love from a hooky array of emotional angles as local alt guru Brad Jones shapes a production that's no more avant than the Music Row standard, but a lot looser and rangier.
Granted, most of the new album could have sprung from a single affair that quickly descended from "You made a lover from a burnt-out wife" to "You're never around so I can't make you leave." In fact, sexists might call its highly un-Nashvillian resistance to sentimentality an attitude problem. Shy but raring to go or rationalizing a relationship that only works when they're lying down, envying his balls or too chicken to haul his clothes off to the Salvation Army, she's always the sharp-tongued sweety of "Cynically Yours": "I your loving [blank], take you, [insert name here], because frankly I'm just too tired to look around anymore." Finding the life in a played-out musical mode is miracle enough. Doing it with happier songs would be positively godlike--and nothing less than Amy Rigby deserves.
Spin, Dec. 2000