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Sometimes I wonder if every odd ball folkie who ever made a record during the late 60s or early 70s now waits by the phone waiting for a call from some young ‘un who’s discovered that obscure piece of wax in a used record shop and is certain it’s the lost grail of psych-folk. Perhaps no other musical trend has given long-forgotten artists a second life like the so-called freak-folk scene. Luckily, most of what’s been rescued and rediscovered has been worth the trouble.
Take Ruthann Friedman, for instance. She had a brief flirtation with the music biz back in the day, largely because she wrote the tune “Windy,” which became a huge hit for soft rock pioneers the Association. She came up with it while staying at David Crosby's guest house, and, indeed, according to the liner notes for the reissue of 1969’s Constant Companion (Water), her sole official release, she associated with folks like Van Dyke Parks, Joni Mitchell, and Dr. John—for a moment she was in the thick of a very potent Los Angeles music community. The record features only her pretty voice and simple acoustic guitar accompaniment—although Peter Kaukonen, who also made the album cover, plays electric guitar on one track. (“Carry On,” a single included here as a bonus track, features a full band.) The music slithers between straight-up American folk, the post-Brill Building pop of Laura Nyro, and the quirkiness of Mitchell, although Friedman wasn’t as distinctive as any of them on their own.
The liner notes for Constant Companion and for Hurried Life (also on Water), a collection of unreleased solo material she recorded at home between 1965-70 (including her take on “Windy”), don't say anything about her dropping out of the music scene. But according to Friedman's Web site, in 1972 she and a friend started a company that sold one product—a portable stationery device called the the Easy Writer Portable Stationery Kit, which baldly imitated the packaging of Easy Wider rolling papers. She writes that the device was a success, especially in head shops, until Easy Wider tossed an injunction at them. Soon after, she got married and started a family.
She plays at the AV-erie on Saturday as part of the Four Million Tongues Festival.
Various Artists, Big Apple Rappin’ (Soul Jazz)
Larval, Obedience (Cuneiform)
Maghrebika, Neftakhir (Barbarity)
Contemporary Jazz Quintet, Actions 1966-67 (Unheard Music Series)
Orrin Evans, Blessed Ones (Criss Cross)