It can be argued that bands composed of family members have no strong economic incentive to challenge themselves musically; much of their appeal to many fans lies elsewhere than on the musically thoughtful and adventurous sides of things. When you come across a group that’s nevertheless committed to exploring those sides, it’s worth taking note, and that’s what Stephen Mougin’s done with The Rigneys. Stephen’s pretty thoughtful and adventurous himself, so it’s a good combination.
“They want to be better musicians,” Stephen said of The Rigneys when he explained in a promotional video why he’d chosen them as the first group signed to his Dark Shadow label. “They want to be a better cohesive unit.” You can hear the truth of that critical observation in virtually every note played and sung on Double Or Nothing; this is a group intent on making progress, on capitalizing on strengths like Andrew Rigney’s supple guitar playing, and on choosing and arranging songs that contribute to that goal.
Indeed, that’s one of the great strengths of this album—a selection of songs that any artist, no matter how well established, would be proud to have made. There’s straight-ahead contemporary bluegrass, some sly references to tradition, and some beautiful material that makes its home in the fertile ground between bluegrass, country and folk. Some of my favorite writers—perhaps some of yours, too—make appearances, including long-time Mougin buddies and colleagues Rick Lang, Becky Buller and Lisa Shaffer. Access to such talent is one of the fringe benefits of working with a producer like Stephen, and The Rigneys took full advantage of it, to great effect. Yet it’s also clear that Andrew Rigney is bringing it as a songwriter, and his contributions stand nicely next to those from the veterans.
In fact, the same could be said of nearly every aspect of The Rigneys’ music as it’s presented on Double Or Nothing, especially for those who have a critical ear and some knowledge of their previous work. For it’s clear that whether you’re talking about song selection, arrangement, the snappy playing and ensemble interplay or the increasingly self-assured and emotive singing, this is a group on the move.
I remember a veteran performer once praising a group to me by saying, “They’re a family band, only better.” It was a funny way of putting it, but the point was plain enough—and it’s one that applies to The Rigneys. Any doubt about it? Just listen up, and all will be clear.
--Jon Weisberger, Cottontown, TN, August, 2013