Successful union of two distinct musical personalities

Eric, Amy play unique parts as literary pop duo

'Wreckless' duo Eric and Amy Rigby

Photo by Fionn Reilly

"Wreckless" duo Eric and Amy Rigby


7 p.m. Sunday at Burke’s Books, 936 S. Cooper.

$10 donation suggested. For more information, call 901-274-8863.

For the past six years, singer-songwriters "Wreckless" Eric Goulden and Amy Rigby have made a fine double act.

Though each was well known and separately established — Goulden as the British-born Stiff Records alum and author of the immortal punk romancer "Whole Wide World"; Rigby as the critically acclaimed New York indie-pop songstress — they've created a new identity together over the course of three fantastic albums. Their partnership is more than just professional; the couple were married in 2007.

"We used to do what we did apart, and now we do what we did together," says Goulden, who will be in Memphis along with Rigby to perform Sunday evening at Cooper-Young's Burke's Books.

The Goulden/Rigby teaming is rare in pop music, a successful union of two distinct talents. "We probably take our models more from country music, people like George Jones and Tammy Wynette — though, hopefully it doesn't extend to the personal life part of it," says Rigby, citing the lovebirds' famous troubles.

"But, like, Conway Twitty and Loretta Lynn — those were very separate artists who had their moment together. And they kept their very distinctive identities within their partnership, which is what we've tried to do as well."

After five years spent together in France, in late 2011 the couple made a transatlantic move to upstate New York, settling in the Hudson River Valley. For Goulden, living in America for the first time has required some adapting. "But I haven't gone native yet," he says, with a chuckle. "I still call the sidewalk a 'pavement,' and I still refer to the yard as a 'garden.' And I still put some 'petrol' in the car. So I haven't relinquished anything. I think I'm adding to the culture."

Goulden's first order of business upon arriving in New York was to build a home studio to record a new album with Rigby. "The equipment, along with everything else we owned, crossed the Atlantic in a big container and was delivered to our house. So I quickly built up some walls and soundproofing and hooked everything up, and before long we had the studio ready."

Recorded earlier this year, the couple's third LP, A Working Museum, comes out next week on Goulden's own Southern Domestic label. Following up 2008's Wreckless Eric & Amy Rigby, and the 2010 covers LP Two Way Family Favourites, the new record is the sharpest example of the duo's literate brand of pop music.

They shared lead vocal duties on the album, and the rest of the credits are also evenly split. "I'd hate to call it a division of labor," Goulden says, "but Amy plays the piano, and I don't. I play the bass, and Amy doesn't. I do the engineering, and Amy's better at arranging harmonies. We have our individual parts to play, and we play them."

Though their writing partnership has evolved, Rigby says there's no set pattern to the couple's work. "We don't have a defined process. We write individually and together," she says. "We've never done a classic co-writing session, where we're knee to knee with our guitars. I think we'd still feel too shy to do that with each other."

The upcoming concert appearance at Burke's Books is fitting as both Goulden and Rigby are authors. Goulden's 1998 autobiography, "A Dysfunctional Success: The Wreckless Eric Manual," was critically hailed upon its release — a funny, insightful account of his early years on the U.K. punk scene. Though he's threatened to write a sequel, Rigby will likely beat him to booksellers with her own as-yet untitled memoir. The volume will cover Rigby's colorful career, from her days in New York's late-'70s "no wave" scene to her solo efforts to her time as a Nashville songwriter for hire.

Meantime, the pair's set at Burke's will draw on their joint recordings as well as their respective solo records — from Goulden's early-'80s gems like Big Smash! to Rigby's mid-90s conceptual classic Diary of a Mod Housewife. "I do think people are interested in what we do separately and collectively," Rigby says. "It's funny, but we've started to have people coming to see us who only know us as a group, and didn't have a preconceived notion about us individually."

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