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Laserbeams and Dreams

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Album Review

Andy Friedman shows that he knows how to set a mood on Laserbeams and Dreams. The New York singer/songwriter went into the studio accompanied only by acoustic bassist Stephan Crump and guitarist David Goodrich to record this raw, rootsy batch of tunes in 24 hours, overdubbing nothing but one song's guitar track, and mixing as he went. Consequently, there's a lot of space in these cuts, and a lot of breathing room; not only is the spontaneous interaction of the three musicians captured in its pure form, both the players and the songs take their time, slowly and steadily establishing the atmosphere that intensifies as the album moves along. The organic feel of Laserbeams and Dreams is the ideal setting for these songs, which seem to represent an urbanite's yearning for a more rural, bucolic kind of existence that's always just out of reach for one reason or another. The lyrics Friedman delivers in his weathered workshirt of a voice are full of close observations illuminated by flashes of poetry, usually managing to maintain an equitable balance between everyday details and flights of literary fancy. The subjects he chooses for his songs, from the late folk musician John Herald ("Roll on, John Herald") to the lack of peace in a digital age ("Quiet Blues"), display a traditionalist's longing for things bygone, but anyone who can leap nimbly from referencing songwriter Danny O'Keefe of "Good Time Charlie's Got the Blues" fame to painter Georgia O'Keeffe within a single line on "Down by the Willow" will never be lacking for a fresh perspective. ~ J. Allen, Rovi

Customer Reviews

A beguiling album of thoughtful country, folk and blues

Friedman’s latest, recorded in 24 hours with only one overdub, fits even more deeply into the singer-songwriter realm than 2009’s Weary Things. His strummed acoustic guitar is backed by the electric leads of producer David Goodrich and the fingered and bowed stand-up bass of Stephan Crump. Friedman’s narrative vocal tone brings to mind Leonard Cohen, but the instrumental conversations lean to languid improvisation, and his lyrics aren’t as poetically elusively. Friedman’s a Brooklyn hillbilly whose hard-scrabble living in the outer boroughs leads him to the old-timey string band sound employed on “Old Pennsylvania,” and lyrics that imagine the city’s genteel yesteryear.

The opener, “It’s Time for Church,” provides a microcosm of Friedman’s talent – a vocal that resonates with hints of Dave Alvin, and a lyric that cleverly turns away from the title’s implication, feints back and then lands its final rejection. It’s a song about religion, but not the endorsement you’d expect. Friedman is a keen observer of his own days and the details of imagined lives and places. “Nothing with My Time” and “Quiet Blues” each contemplate what Friedman’s doing when he’s doing nothing, and “Pretty Great” offers the clear-eyed view of youth that’s only visible in rear view mirror. Friedman’s earlier years as a spoken-word poet are reflected in the short “Schroon Lake,” and his father-in-law’s poetry, written shortly before his passing, forms the core of “May I Rest When Death Approaches.”

Death also hovers over the electric blues “Roll On, John Herald,” with Goodrich raging away on electric guitar. More idyllic are Friedman’s dreams of long-gone summer retreats in the faded snapshots of “Motel on the Lake,” the warmth of a tour’s end in “Going Home (Drifter’s Blessing),” and the nostalgic “Down by the Willow.” The latter features a hypnotic, psych-inflected guitar jam by Goodrich. Friedman’s always been a fine songwriter and compelling performer, but on his third album there’s a heightened symbiosis between the two. The trio is terrifically sympathetic to his songs, adding emotional color and texture without overshadowing the lyrics, and Friedman’s vocals fit fluidly into the music. [©2011 hyperbolium dot com]


Genre: Country

Years Active: '00s

Andy Friedman began in the world of art and illustration, and later moved into music. Born in Brooklyn, he graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design with a B.F.A. in painting. He started work in the mailroom of The New Yorker in August 1998 and began slipping his own cartoons in among the submissions; eventually, the magazine started buying them, and they were published under the pseudonym Larry Hat. Friedman built up a career as a freelance illustrator. In the spring of 2002, he left The...
Full Bio
Laserbeams and Dreams, Andy Friedman
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  • $9.99
  • Genres: Country, Music, Rock
  • Released: Apr 05, 2011

Customer Ratings