(City Salvage Records)
By Tom Geddie
Singer-songwriter Andy Friedman complains on the first track off his new album, Weary Things, that he misses being broken, lowdown, and alone. By the final song, sounding more like Tom Waits doing electric blues, he brags, “I got something up here you ain’t never heard … can’t make a record without something to say.”
In between, the third-generation Brooklynite, who does cartoons for The New Yorker (under the pseudonym Larry Hat) and portrait illustrations for that and other publications, shares intelligent, original country, folk, and blues songs backed by a solid band known as The Other Failures.
Friedman is a part of a supposedly un-ironic, genuine country music scene in Brooklyn. He’s been described as the “hillbilly Leonard Cohen,” although New Yorkers’ insulated ideas of what a hillbilly might be seem a little suspect. He sometimes comes off a bit like Cohen: weary (as the title suggests), intelligent, and a keen observer of himself and what’s around him.
Friedman mostly seems to miss simpler times. On “Idaho,” he wants to return to places he’s been – if he ever gets the time. On “Freddy’s Backroom,” an eight-minute, mostly spoken-word piece with musical accompaniment, he shares the joy of eclectic musicians gathering to jam in an old bar’s back room when it’s a good night for singing (but not for inner meaning), and he laments that the place will be torn down to make room for a new basketball arena and some high-rise luxury towers. On “Pilot Light,” a track fueled by steel guitar, he decides that art results from passion and that liberation is perfection.
Friedman is not the poet that Cohen is, but few are. He does not have Cohen’s gravity. Still, Weary Things is a satisfying listen, without being a masterpiece, which is just about all anybody can ordinarily hope for in a collection of songs.