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Category Archives: Ruthann Friedman


Ruthann Friedman’s chief claim to fame is having written The Association’s 1967 hit “Windy.” Less well known, however, is Constant Companion , her sole solo album recorded for Reprise in 1969. Water’s reissue of the album seems timed to follow the success of other recently-rediscovered female singer-songwriters (Vashti Bunyan, Judee Sill) continue→

and the resurgence of ’60s-inspired folk in general. Constant Companion, however, is no mere nostalgia trip, nor is its re-release a case of opportunistic bandwagoning.

While Friedman’s music will undoubtedly be grouped with that of Bunyan and her present-day heirs (Devendra Banhart, for one), she has little in common with them. Contrary to what her song titles (“Piper’s Call,” “Fairy Prince Rainbow Man”) might suggest, she doesn’t indulge in idyllic flower-power folk. While Constant Companion doesn’t immediately elicit comparison to any particular artist, it is perhaps closest in spirit to the first two albums of Friedman’s Reprise labelmate Joni Mitchell. Like Mitchell, Friedman is a skilled guitarist and gifted songwriter, attributes that separate her from the era’s horde of would-be folkies. She possesses a deep, powerful voice, and her impressive vocal control suggests that she may have been classically trained. In other words, she’s no amateur dilettante who got lucky enough to record a one-shot album, but rather a fully mature and practiced artist.

The songs on Constant Companion cover a range of styles, from Simon and Garfunkel style folk (“People”) and Mitchell-inspired psychedelic ruminations (“Fairy Prince Rainbow Man,” “Danny”) to jazz-inflected pop (“Morning Becomes You”). The arrangements are sparse, consisting solely of Friedman’s acoustic guitar and voice, with the exception of lead guitar by Peter Kaukonen (brother of Jefferson Airplane and Hot Tuna’s Jorma, and creator of Constant Companion’s cover art). Friedman’s wide stylistic range suggests that the suits at Reprise may have been a little too eager to force her into the role of “the next Joni”; several of her songs cry out for further orchestration (the fingerstyle guitar intro to “Looking Back Over Your Shoulder” being one case in point). While they work as acoustic compositions, they may have benefited from more complex arrangements, as does the post-album single “Carry On (Glittering Dancer),” a quirky track that indulges in Van Dyke Parks-style baroque orchestrations (apparently Parks and Friedman were briefly an item, and he executive produced the track.) Given the fact that Friedman hasn’t recorded anything since, Constant Companion can hardly help but evoke imaginings of what might have been had she stayed in the business longer. As it stands, though, the album is a fine effort, and its rescue from the archives is certainly to be applauded.

El principal motivo de la fama de Ruthann Friedman se debe a haber escrito el hit “Windy” de The Association en 1967. Menos conocida sin embargo, es este Constant Companion, su único álbum en solitario grabado para Reprise en 1969. La reedición por Waters del álbum parece programada a seguir el éxito de otras recientemente redescubiertas cantautoras (Vashti Bunyan, Judee Sill), y el resurgimiento del folk de los 60. Constant Companion, sin embargo, no es un simple viaje nostálgico, ni su re-lanzamiento es un caso de oportunismo.

Mientras la música de Friedman sin duda, será agrupada a la de Bunyan y sus actuales herederos (Devendra Banhart entre otros), Friedman poco tiene en común con ellos. Contrariamente a lo que sugieren los títulos de sus canciones (“Piper’s Call,” “Fairy Prince Rainbow Man”), ella no cae en un idílico flower-power de folk. Mientras que Constant Companion no provoca inmediata comparación con algún artista en particular, es quizás el más cercano en espíritu a los dos primeros álbumes de Joni Mitchell para Reprise. Al igual que Mitchell, Friedman (compañera de sello) es una virtuosa guitarrista y talentosa compositora, atributos que la separan de la Horda de aspirantes a folkies de la época. Poseedora de una voz profunda y poderosa, y su impresionante control vocal sugiere que pudo haber tenido una formación clásica. En otras palabras, no es una aficionada que tiene la suerte de grabar un disco, sino más bien un artista maduro y practicado.

Las canciones del disco cubren una amplia gama de estilos, del folk de Simon and Garfunkel en “People”, meditaciones psicodélicas Mitchellescas en “Fairy Prince Rainbow Man” & “Danny”, al jazz pop de “Morning Becomes You”. Los arreglos son escasos, consistiendo únicamente en guitarra acústica y voz de Friedman, con la excepción de la guitarra de Peter Kaukonen (hermano de Jorma Kaukonen, de Jefferson Airplane & Hot Tuna, y creador del arte de tapa de Constant Companion).

La amplia gama estilística de Friedman sugiere que las demandas en Reprise, pueden haber sido algo demasiado ansiosas, forzando en su rol de “próxima Joni”. Varias de sus canciones piden a gritos más orquestación (la intro fingerstyle en “Looking Back Over Your Shoulder”, es ejemplo de ello). Si bien se trabajó en forma de composiciones acústicas, puede que se hubiesen beneficiado con arreglos más complejos, al igual que el post-single “Carry On (Glittering Dancer),” un tema peculiar que se entrega al estilo barroco de las orquestaciones de Van Dyke Parks.

Teniendo en cuenta que Friedman no ha grabado nada desde aquel Constant Companion, no se puede dejar de evocar fantasías de lo que podría haber sido si se quedaba en el negocio por más tiempo. Sin embargo, tal como está el álbum es un muy buen esfuerzo, y su rescate sin duda debe ser aplaudido. –Michael Cramer

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