When two songwriters as gifted as Eric Goulden (better known by his stage name Wreckless Eric) and Amy Rigby decide to record an album of covers together, you have to wonder if they're being lazy or they're having a dry spell. While it's not impossible that either of those factors played into the making of their second album together, 2010's Two-Way Family Favourites, a listen to the record suggests that these two writers know something about a great song and what makes it click, and on these sessions they take 11 tunes (most of which you're probably familiar with) and give them a spin that makes them seem fresh, deeply personal, and genuinely moving. You might imagine you never want to hear another version of "Put a Little Love in Your Heart," and you might be right, but Rigby sings it with such clear and unaffected sincerity that the song's altruism feels fresh and genuine for the first time in decades. Eric performs similar magic with Pete Townshend's "Endless Wire" and Tom Petty's "Walls." These are two tunes most folks would regard as lesser accomplishments from worthy talents, but Eric reveals the muscle, blood, and heart beneath their surfaces with his craggy but inspired vocal work. When Amy and Eric sing "The Ballad of Easy Rider," their harmonies breathe new life into the song's sense of yearning, they make the heartache of "You Tore Me Down" into something palpable, and their take on "In My Room" captures the sweet loneliness at its core as well as anyone since Brian Wilson himself. And if "Silver Shirt" by Plummet Airlines is the sort of song remembered only by a tiny number of pub rock obsessives, in Eric's hands the song seems like a minor masterpiece, and the song's repeated refrain "The light is fading/Goodbye, rock & roll" sounds all the more poignant coming from a man who has given well over three decades to rock with relatively little reward. So who wants to hear two songwriters sing other people's stuff? In the case of Two-Way Family Favourites, you do. Really.
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AllMusic Review by Mark Deming