Friday, September 13

WIll Rigby's Paradoxaholic (Interview Part 2)

Music geeks of the world, I have a question for you: 

Is there anything more satisfying than sharing your nomination for Best Album Most People Have Never Heard?

Nope; I think not.

This and other drawings by Michael McMahon
If we narrow the parameters just a bit — as in, “Best Americana Album Most People Have Never Heard” — then I have an album for your consideration: I nominate Will Rigby’s 2002’s album, Paradoxaholic.

If you’ve heard a funnier (yet also profound), catchier (yet not simplistic), more musically enjoyable album, please leave a comment at the bottom of this post — ‘cuz I intend to track it down and listen to it. But don’t just take my word for how good Paradoxaholic is. Scroll to the bottom of this post for some reviews, including a no-kidding endorsement by Peter Holsapple.

Since it’s Will’s only “proper” album (ie, one you can buy on CD), I spent a good bit of time asking about Paradoxaholic during my recent interview with him.  

Photo and design by Stephanie Chernikowski
One of the first things Will talked about was the name of the album: 

The whole reason I made the album title Paradoxaholic is that I had some songs that were rather humorous and I had some miserable, sad songs and I was trying to think of a word that expressed the fact that there was two very different things going on, and that was the closest I could come.

I'd imagine you would be proud of the album. True?

Yeah, I’m proud of it. But when you write humorous songs, people don’t take them very seriously. You kind of damn yourself to being [seen as] superficial…. When I write a song with humor in it, I aspire for it to be funny and serious at the same time. But it’s disconcerting to people; people don’t really go for it. It’s a very small group of people who go for serious and funny at the same time.

Tell me about the first track, "Got You Up My Sleeve". Your daughter Hazel got a co-writing credit on that, but I assume she was really young when it was recorded.

She was 4 or 5 at the time. I was kind of messing around and I jokingly said, “Let’s write a song.” One line she said made it into the song, “You seem to be with me”. [Unfortunately, Hazel cried when she heard the finished song because it differed from the version her father had first sung for her!].

I love "Leanin' On Bob"; it cracks me up. Is there an autobiographical moment somewhere in there? And what the heck does the subtitle mean ("The r.m.d Song")?

You betray your lack of Dylan knowledge! r.m.d are the initials of the Dylan newsgroup, which was way ahead of the curve on the Internet. I’m a pretty big fan, and it’s partly a song about the discovery of the Internet. They [the r.m.d newsgroup users] were way far along when I found it.

In December of 1995, I went to see Dylan in concert. It was Patti Smith’s big comeback, too, and she was opening, with Tom Verlaine was on guitar. [After a period of disillusionment with Dylan,] I was more excited about seeing Patti. So, she’s up there, she does all right, but Bob comes on and he was great. I think it’s my favorite time seeing him, partly because it was a time of re-discovery. It was kind of a small crowd, but he was giving it his all. He did “Obviously Five Believers” — just all this obscure shit, and it was really great, so I got all into him again.

I was also just starting to use the Internet, so I started looking him up and found this discussion group. Day in and day out, the same people would say, “Yeah, I went to the show last night.” And they would be travelling thousands of miles, in a week or two, just following the tour around. I was like, “Who are all these people? Don’t these people have jobs? How do they afford this?” It was a bunch of people who would go to show after show. I was an intense fan at that point, but the lines about following him around are talking about those real super fans — who were putting me to shame. And they are legion!

Just after interviewing him, I witnessed Will drumming for a great Steve Earle and The Dukes concert. During the show, Will sang “Ricky Skaggs Tonite” (an unlisted track on the CD version of Paradoxaholic). He seems bemused the song turned out to be unintentionally prophetic.

I wrote that in 1987, and it came out [as a single] in ’92. From what I understand — unbeknownst to itself — it has become kinda prophetic about what Ricky Skaggs has become. It talks about the Apocrypha, the “lost gospels” — and, according to Steve Earle, that’s what he [Skaggs] is into now. That’s bizarre. I don’t know that, but that’s what Steve says. I think he underwent some sort of revelation … struck by lightning, or something. I actually have it on fairly good authority from the bluegrass community that Ricky Skaggs has heard the song.

BUY PARADOXAHOLIC AT WILL'S BANDCAMP SITE in lossless or high-quality MP3 formats — for cheap!
Want it on disc? Try here.

(these are excerpts; click the link to see the whole thing)

Will Rigby, once the drummer for the dB’s, currently toiling in Steve Earle’s band (among other paying gigs), writes the kind of songs that should be gathered under a title like “Paradoxaholic.” Clever, smart-assed, funny lyrics get wedded to catchy, spritely little tunes. His stuff sounds like it could be sold to NRBQ or the Morells, and that’s a compliment in my book.... Songs like “Leanin’ On Bob,” in which Rigby assumes the persona of a life-long Dylan fanatic, or “The Jerks at Work,” in which he becomes the most beleaguered co-worker ever, deserve a wide hearing.

The onetime dB's drummer also plays keys as he sings over his guitar buddies in a quavery drawl that knows the difference between funny-eccentric and eccentric-affected; his changeable band clangs and twangs, more Big Pink than dB's. He also knows the difference between a solid tune and a generic one. And he writes lyrics too. Sometimes they're as simply nutty as " . . . Wheelchair, Drunk," but usually they're also pointed—at Dylan worship, the eschatology of Ricky Skaggs, "The Jerks at Work." [Rating: A minus] 

AllMusic Guide review by Michael Berick 
Paradoxaholic marks a rare move to the front of the stage for Rigby. It is only his second solo full-length, coming some 17 years after his debut, Sidekick Phenomenon. What is also rare is that this disc avoids being simply a sidekick vanity piece. "Got You up My Sleeve" kicks things off in rollicking, NRBQ-esque style, and that seminal roots rock band serves as a touchstone for Rigby's music. Both "The Jerks at Work" and "If I Can't Be King," for example, sound like long-lost NRBQ gems. Like NRBQ, Rigby's songs frequently mix sarcastic humor with rootsy hooks…. Rigby utilizes his many years as a musician in his songwriting. "Leanin' on Bob" stands as a hilarious (and knowing) look at being a Bob Dylan disciple and the hidden track, "Ricky Skaggs Tonite," is an odd tale starring the Nashville star…. Although he turns to such old pals as his ex-dB's mate Gene Holder, guitarist Dave Schramm, and Mark Spencer for backing support, Rigby also demonstrates his versatility on this disc by playing keyboards, bass, and guitar besides the drums. But more impressively, he displays his generally hidden skill as a witty songwriter. His sense of humor, coupled with his sense for hooks, makes Paradoxaholic a lively and always entertaining listen. Hopefully, it won't take him more than 15 years to create his next album. [RATING: 4 out of 5 stars]

Q: Will Rigby‘s “Write Back” is a really strong tune, really endearing. So if you and Chris are Edmunds and Lowe, or Difford and Tilbrook, or Lennon and McCartney, then he’s George Harrison, right?

PETER HOLSAPPLE: I would say George Gershwin. I think he may actually be the best songwriter in the band. Paradoxaholic, the last record that he put out, …gosh, it’s good. Really, really excellent songwriting.


1) Major profile of Will in Nashville Scene by Bill Friskics-Warren, published May 2002.

2) Interview with John Fortunato at BeerMelodies.Com ("For Beer Geeks and Rock Freaks"), published soon after Paradoxaholic was released.

3) No Depression feature story (with lots of quotes from Will) by Rick Cornell, published in 2002.

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