Punk-era songwriter Wreckless Eric wrote his biggest hit, "The Whole Wide World," when he was a teenager in Hull, England; it's about the love of his life, who "probably lives in Tahiti," and the trip he'll take to find her. London's Stiff Records put it out in 1977, and some 20-odd years later, Eric was invited to DJ at the same pub where he first performed "Whole Wide World." That night's featured performer was American songwriter Amy Rigby, who had a habit of covering the song. Having been clever enough to write a song that did the hard work of traveling for him, Eric had the good sense to take advantage of it. He and Rigby married earlier this year and repaired to their cottage in rural France to make a record. The duo makes an unlikely musical pairing — he an acerbic, uncompromising DIY recordist with a colorful history, she an alt-country rocker and self-described "Mod Housewife" turned Nashville songwriting pro. The self-titled collaboration yields a set of noisy, unconventional pop songs that capture both Eric's wry experimentalism and Rigby's gift for harmony; the surprisingly diverse album stretches from Rigby's endearingly cantankerous "Men in Sandals" to the pained empathy of Eric's "The Downside of Being a Fuck-Up" to hoary album-closing Johnny Cash cover "I Still Miss Someone." It's a fitting signoff from a duo that evokes the spirit of an avant-garde Johnny and June, although its classical sweetness gives a bit of a lie to Eric's grouching. To hear him tell it, the "most unfortunate thing that ever happened to pop music is that it lasted." For musicians like Eric and Rigby, though, the opposite is true.
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