For Record Store Day’s “Drop 2” this Saturday, keep an eye out for the first ever vinyl issue of Hurried Life: Lost Recordings, 1965-1971, by astral folk cult favorite, Ruthann Friedman.
Originally released in 2006 on CD and finally pressed onto black plastic this year by Tompkins Square Records, Hurried Life features 15 demos, home recordings and other previously unreleased songs by this gifted songwriter. Among these very fine tracks, you’ll find the original version of her hit, “Windy” (yes, the “Windy” made famous by The Association).
Friedman made a name for herself as a skilled folk singer and guitar player in the midst of the San Francisco scene of the late 60s, and recorded her only album, the now-classic Constant Companion, for Reprise Records by the end of the decade. She gave up music by the early 70s and faded into obscurity until the psychedelic and freak folk boom of the early 2000s rediscovered her work, giving her the appreciation she long deserved.
While the songs on her sole LP were of a cosmic and ethereal nature, the majority of the tracks found on this compilation are closer to what we would now refer to as singer-songwriter music, with a stronger acoustic Topanga Canyon vibe (especially on the David Crosby-like “Hurried Life”).
However, this record still features many examples of Friedman preferring to emphasize the atmospheric elements in her compositions over typical pop conventions. This is especially evident on the airy “Sky is Moving South,” which was co-written by former bandmate Peter Kaukonen (brother of Jorma). She even let progressive blues influences seep occasionally into her work, especially on the moody “Boy Took a Ticket,” which sounds like a possible subconscious influence on Zeppelin’s “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You.”
With a soothing voice that is like a cross between Karen Beth’s and Buffy Sainte-Marie’s, and an emotive fingerpicking style that is reminiscent of both Dave Van Ronk and Josh White, Friedman deserves the respect and recognition that goes well beyond her cult status. This lovingly reissued compilation is undeniable proof that she should be as much of a household name as Joni Mitchell or Sandy Denny. Don’t just take my word for it, track it down at your local record store this Saturday and find out why for yourself.
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