Andy Friedman
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Andy Friedman


Band Country Singer/Songwriter


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"Performing Songwriter Album Review"

That the moral recitations Hank Williams recorded as Luke the Drifter weren’t his biggest-selling sides isn’t all that surprising, considering honky-tonk singing was really what he was known for. Brooklyn’s Andy Friedman is just the opposite: He accompanied his visual art with spoken-word pieces before ever picking up a guitar, and played his pseudonymous cards differently (he cartoons for the New Yorker as Larry Hat and sings as himself).

Perhaps because of that, the songs on Friedman’s second studio album, Weary Things, have the qualities of country beat poetry. “Freddy’s Backroom” is an entirely spoken-word track; during most others his grainy voice delivers boatloads of tangible details per verse. Friedman has cobbled together ragged folk, blues, rockabilly and country, crumbling old images and sterile new ones, as well as restlessness and tender attachment. It makes for a heady, human picture. —Jewly Hight

Grayson Capps – Rott ’N’ Roll
Tom Waits – Mule Variations
Jim Dickinson – Dixie Fried

- Performing Songwriter

"Slant Magazine Album Review"

3.5 out of 4 stars

"I just learned guitar/And my voice ain't pretty," growls Andy Friedman on "The Friedman Holler," the live performance track that closes his second album Weary Things. On its own, the line reveals Friedman's mile-wide self-deprecating streak, but in the context of the rest of the album, it's further proof that he fully understands how to incorporate personal details (Friedman, a widely-published illustrator and noted cartoonist, had never played an instrument prior to 2004) into songs that build a full-bodied artistic persona. The truth of the narratives Friedman spins here—from the articulate, philosophical defense of art on "Pilot Light" to the equally passionate defense of his favorite, soon-to-be-demolished dive bar on the flat-out amazing recitation "Freddy's Backroom"—is incidental to the first-rate skill he displays in telling them. Armed with a visual artist's ability for creating indelible images, Friedman makes each of his songs believable and authentic. That he doesn't have the most aesthetically pleasing voice (see also: Fred Eaglesmith, Tom Waits) in no way detracts from a line like, "There's a little country store/Five miles past the light/It's more expensive than Brooklyn/Now, that's not the way it goes" on "Locked Out of the Building." While country music has traditionally been a voice for the disenfranchised rural working class, Friedman co-opts that tradition for a contemporary, urban perspective, and he does so in a way that shows a deep appreciation for the genre's forms and functions. It's only in terms of performance, with the rotating cast of Other Failures playing perfectly competent folk arrangements and three-chord bar-rock numbers, that the album underwhelms. Weary Things may not be the most technically accomplished or pleasing of country records, but it announces Friedman's arrival as one of the genre's smartest and deepest talents. --Jonathan Keefe - Slant Magazine

"Philadelphia Inquirer Album Review"

3.5 out of 4 stars

On "Pilot Light," Andy Friedman tells an autobiographical tale about spending three years working on a painting only to learn a valuable lesson. "Liberation is perfection," he concludes. Well, this painter, cartoonist and illustrator has liberated himself to become a songwriter with an engagingly singular voice.

Over loose-limbed country, folk and blues boogie, Friedman writes from the wry, sharply observational perspective of a "Road Trippin' Daddy," balancing wanderlust with his responsibilities as a real father. One of his best portraits, "Freddy's Backroom," is set on his home turf of Brooklyn. It's the story of a favorite dive that's destined to become a parking lot, and Friedman's lovingly detailed description nails just what makes such a place so appealing.

- Nick Cristiano - Philadelphia Inquirer

"Sonic Boomers Album Review"

Why do so many Brooklyn bands sound like they make a living pushing around lawn mowers, or should be doing time in Yazoo City, Mississippi? You don’t hear any Nashville groups trying on Brooklyn accents. That’s okay, because music like this was born in the South, and will probably die there someday, too. No doubt Andy Friedman has an active mind. It’s obvious. He draws cartoons for New Yorker magazine and started his stage career seven years ago using photographs with poetry. Somewhere along the way music invaded his soul and would not let go. Weary Things is his second album, and it’s easy to hear why this is exactly what he’s supposed to do. With a voice that sounds like sleep is the enemy and experience is king, Friedman reaches down to drag up big and small truths, drops them inside the deep fryer and out pop real songs, the kind that move you because reality lives within them. In the ‘70s there would be lots of places that would revere him, and plenty of magazines to spread the word. Most of those places and magazines are long gone now, so in our new more narrowcast world, it is going to be harder to grab the spotlight. That’s also okay, because this is an artist and they’re used to rejection. The next time all the Important New Bands start to send small throbs to the front of the skull, find this album. About half of it will feel like the personal discovery of a new best friend, and give hope not everything has to be perfect. Honest. - Sonic Boomers

"Folk, Country, And Blues From The Wilds Of Brooklyn"

The mean streets of Brooklyn, NY are host to a thriving collection of hootenannies, hoedowns, jamborees, and scattershot oprys, jugfests and birthday bashes that must leave Manhattan city folk jealous of their outerborough cousins. Third-generation Brooklynite Andy Friedman found his way to the scene by drawing ever-widening musical circles around a background in visual arts. He started with recitations of spoken word lyrics placed alongside his paintings and drawings, added layers of improvisational musical accompaniment at his live shows, and slowly transformed his work with more traditional arrangements that span folk, country rock, twangy blues and studio touches. You can still hear the self-guided evolution in singing that reveals Friedman’s narrative voice.

The title of this sophomore album, Weary Things, highlights the physical lethargy in Friedman’s singing, as well as the mental wear of yearning for feelings and times that have aged out of a grown-up’s life. He’s tired, but it’s often a good kind of tired: the tired born of life experience and coping with the curveballs thrown by the world. Friedman gazes longingly at the irresponsibility of youth and the grab-bag freedoms of a cross-country trip. He finds independence in touring but is subsumed by the road’s isolation from family, declaring the former in the electric blues shuffle “Road Trippin’” and giving in to the latter on the acoustic apologia “Road Trippin’ Daddy.” Cleverly, the lyrics of both songs are the same but the arrangement and vocal tone rewrite their meaning.

Friedman’s self-discovery offers a matured version of Jonathan Richman’s childlike wonder. He’s humorous without being jokey, arch without being ironic, like writer Nicholson Baker without the OCD. Well, mostly without the OCD, as the encyclopedic eulogy for his home base, Freddy’s Backroom, stretches to eight-minutes of barstool detail. He writes philosophically of his background as a painter, and like many of the Brooklyn hillbillies, paints against the backdrop of their urban milieu. He’s sufficiently self-assured to pierce his own hipness with the overly dramatic aside, “Hello young loners, wherever you are,” and closes the album a rousing take of “The Friedman Holler” recorded live in Chicago. Friedman’s sentimental, tough, sloppy, resilient, irascible, capricious and pragmatic, but most of all he’s honest, and that honesty is the fuel of country songwriting whether it’s ignited in the hills of Appalachians or the heights of Brooklyn. - Hyperbolium

" Album Review"

"I haven't been to the lake since music's mystery has been replaced." For many musicians, this would be a profoundly sad lyric, but "Weary Apology", the second-to-last song on Weary Things, doesn't have such a feel. Instead, it's a nostalgic look at accomplishments, a mixture of past joys and current responsibilities which is echoed in most of the songs on the record.

"My voice ain't pretty," Andy Friedman sings in the barn-burning live blues-rocker "The Friedman Holler", which closes the record. True enough, but his voice is emotionally honest, somehow simultaneously raw and delicate. Friedman has been a cartoonist published in the New Yorker, a painter, a slideshow poet, and now an alt-country songwriter/performer. You might say he's been looking for smaller audiences at every turn.

"You can't make a record without something to say," goes another line from "The Friedman Holler". Friedman sings of contentment with a settled life, while he remembers (and occasionally revisits) the rambling yearnings of someone without commitments. "Freddy's Backroom", an eight-minute recitative song about a neighborhood bar/music hall, is told from the perspective of a former regular now enjoying his life as a husband and father who nevertheless still loves to go for the atmosphere, camaraderie, and free drinks. Amid this mixture of past and present, the future is introduced: The bar will be torn down to build a parking garage. Friedman's character, and his friends, are already planning to move on, but they know it can't be the same.

"We're in love with all these weary things," goes the chorus in the title track. Whether a beautiful, haunting song such as this one, or a modern Dylanesque blues such as "Locked Out Of The Building", Friedman describes his take on the world with impressive musical skills. He has replaced music's mystery with a grasp of its fundamentals.


"Elmore Magazine Album Review"

In the spirit and tradition of Tom Waits, Lou Reed, Leonard Cohen and Jim Morrison, where forlorn spoken word meets the melancholy strains of honest music, Andy Friedman paints his poetry.

Friedman's words evoke images of a road trip across a tumbleweed-blown stretch of Middle America once trod upon by cowboys, pockets of blue-collar Brooklyn endangered by gentrification and kitschy Catskills resorts. Whether these images, so vividly, albeit verbally portrayed, are culled from first-hand experience or are a product of Freidman's creative imaginary palette, they nonetheless bring a warm romanticism to these otherwise unsung vestiges of our evolving culture. It's an economical musical production, with countrified instrumentation, its sparseness strengthening the message. His style in a nutshell: Tom Waits meets Hank Williams.

The opener, "I Miss Being Broken, Lowdown and Alone," establishes the blue mood for the album, with "Locked Out Of the Building" and "Pilot Light" furthering that theme. "Idaho" brings you "to the land of the Sinclair gas station sign" and celebrates the joys of roaming and along with "Road Trippin,'" presents the CD's two bursts of optimism. Friedman extols and entwines the disciplines of painting and poetry throughout, being a real world purveyor of both.

Weary Things portrays the message that though seemingly disparate bastions of Americana may be cut from different cloth, they share common hopes and dreams, while nostalgically yearning for simpler times. There's hope at the end of the road if we endure the ride.

—M.T.H. Weitzman - Elmore Magazine

"Nashville Scene Critic's Pick"

Andy Friedman has a dark, singular sense of humor it serves him well as a cartoonist for the likes of the New Yorker, and it serves him even better as an acerbic singer-songwriter with a world-weary delivery and a talent for synthesizing heartache. Friedman’s latest, Weary Things, recorded with his band The Other Failures was released in late January. Though Friedman resides in Brooklyn, his sound would be right at home here in Music City: It’s twangy and ragged and channels honky-tonk verve and Mid-South levels of self-deprecation. On the wonderfully dreary “I Miss Being Broken,” Lowdown and alone, the family man Friedman wistfully laments the passing of his more desolate days when he could “count fingertips of winter trees and drink wine all day,” but then he admits, My seeds are all sown, I had plenty of time to spend on my own. “It’s wonderful testament to the charm and value of youthful desperation. - Nashville Scene

"Birmingham Weekly Interview Feature"

by Brent Thompson

Whether you know it or not, you’ve probably seen Andy Friedman’s cartoons and illustrations. His drawingshave regularly appeared in The New Yorker and many other noteworthy magazines and newspapers. Now, it’s time to get acquainted with Friedman’s music. Backed by his band The Other Failures, the Brooklyn, N.Y.-based Friedman will appear at The Nick on Friday, February 20. Currently, Friedman is touring in support of his recently-released sophomore CD, Weary Things (City Salvage Records). Recently, the Weekly’s Brent Thompson spoke to Friedman by phone from his Brooklyn home.

BT: Andy, thanks for your time today. It seems like Brooklyn has become a thriving artist’s community. What were the catalysts that propelled its scene?

AF: It’s the oldest trick in the book - the Atlantic Records model. Atlantic was a tiny little upstart and then Ray Charles got huge and then suddenly it’s a major thing and everybody flocks to it. I can’t believe how many of these clubs in New York City - like the Knitting Factory - are closing up and moving to Brooklyn. It really has become like the West Village in the sixties. When I came here 11 or 12 years after college, it was where all the poor, scrappy artists lived. The area becomes cool and everybody moves here and big clubs come in becasue there are a lot of people to service. You still have to go to Manhattan for the 1,000 and 2,000-seat theatres, but Brooklyn’s become the real scene for small to medium-sized clubs. It’s funny how these things happen.

BT: We’re really enjoying the new album, Weary Things. If you will, talk about your writiing process and the evolution of the album’s material.

AF: I spend a lot of time in the car and when I’m not driving, I’m home washing dishes. I always have a notebook on me and I write down whatever pops into my head, whether it’s one word, one line or a whole song at a time. I wrote “Freddy’s Backroom” on a bunch of bar napkins in about as much time as it took to sing the song - it just happened. A song like “Locked Out Of The Building” is a lot of little thoughts that were weaved together over time. I like to quote Furry Lewis - the great country bluesman - who says, “I think of things and rhyme ‘em up” (laughs). That’s sort of how I roll. I don’t sit with a quill pen and a lamp and write these songs. You’ve probably heard this before, but they enter me and I send them out. The reason I send them out is two-fold. It’s how I deal with life if I’m confused or upset about something. I use these songs to get past it. On the other end, it’s to communicate and share and be there for some other lost soul. If somebody finds it and has use for it, then it’s my obligation to pass it on.

BT: Obviously, your professional life revolves around two creative mediums, music and illustrations. Does one inspire or affect the other?

AF: It’s like Jekyll & Hyde. I know I’m the same person - and I dont want to say that illustrations are just a job - but those are assignments. No one is ever calling me up and saying, “I need you to write a song about how you’re broken and miserable and lost.” But that’s how it works with illustrations. They call me up and say they want me to draw a picture of President Obama or Mick Jagger and I draw it. There’s not much blood and sweat that goes into it.

BT: What came first in your life, music or art?

AF: I’ve been drawing since I was a couple of months old and I never touched a guitar until March of 2005. I never sang a note until I sat down to record my first album. - Birmingham Weekly

"Renaissance Man Andy Friedman Brings His Brand of “Art Country” to The Brass Rail"

by Ben Larson

Saturday, September 26th will mark the return of alt-country singer/songwriter Andy Friedman to The Brass Rail. Described by The Athens News as “the hillbilly Leonard Cohen,” a little digging shows that he’s much, much more than that.

Depending on what trips your trigger, you may have heard of Friedman from either is music, or for his illustrations and artwork. A native of Brooklyn, Friedman graduated with a BFA in painting from the Rhode Island School of Design (the same university that spawned such acts as Arab on Radar and, more notably, Talking Heads).

While working in the mailroom of The New Yorker, he started submitting his own work under the pseudonym Larry Hat, and eventually found himself a career as a freelance illustrator, selling works to both The New Yorker and The New York Times Magazine, as well as other notable publications. In 2002, Friedman left The New Yorker, began performing spoken word poetry while projecting his artwork as a slide show, and doing album artwork for other musicians.

Friedman’s song “Taken Man” (from the 2007 album of the same name) was #30 on The New York Post’s “207 Best Songs to Download in 2007.” Now, I told you that in order to tell you this next bit — Andy Friedman didn’t start playing music until 4 years ago. In a recent article in Birmingham Weekly, Friedman said “I’ve been drawing since I was a couple of months old and I never touched a guitar until March of 2005. I never sang a note until I sat down to record my first album.”

Friedman released his first album, Live at the Bowery Poetry Club for City Salvage Records in 2006, but didn’t begin playing guitar and singing until the aforementioned “Taken Man” in 2007. He then followed up with Weary Things in January of this year.

Since deciding to take up music, Friedman has kept up a busy touring schedule with either The Other Failures or The Golden Winners (his two backup bands), and has garnered some hefty critical praise along the way. The Minneapolis City Pages dubbed him “The King of Art Country.” NPR’s Faith Salie said “his songs demand that you sit down and listen to them” and cited this as being the reason that Friedman is “such a hot live act.”

According to Friedman, the transition from visual to musical artist was a natural progression, and not entirely planned. “This life, meaning the life of the touring songwriter and musician, influenced the old slideshow. When I started doing that show in 2002 I was strictly a visual artist. Never sang a note or played guitar in my life. I put out a book of my pencil drawings and poems called Drawings & Other Failures and envisioned this as offering the closest thing I could to what a songwriter offers as an “album.” To me, it was a collection of music and lyrics that you look at, all unified and housed as a cohesive whole. The way I thought about it, if I had an album I had to have a live show, and hanging my work on the wall wasn’t going to cut it, so I traveled around with a slide projector and a small screen accompanying projections with spoken lyrics and stories in the same kind of rock clubs and bars I now play with the band. Somehow it worked, and after two years I introduced musical accompaniment to the process. It all sounded a bit like Hank Williams as “Luke the Drifter,” but with visuals. It wasn’t long before I learned a few chords and started strumming along with the band, singing the spoken stuff, and ditching the visual element to emerge as a bandleader, all quite by accident,” according to an interview he did with The Brooklyn Rail this past May.

Just like many other musicians, Friedman cites his influences as being partly from the usual suspects for his style of music (Dylan, Springsteen, Joni Mitchell) as well as a few unexpected ones (Randy Newman, Frank Sinatra). Having listened to his music, I can tell you that the Leonard Cohen comparison is a pretty accurate one. His low, slow style of singing is quite reminiscent of Cohen, but also bares some resemblance to more modern artists such as M. Ward and Damien Jurado. Just like anyone influenced by the likes of Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen, where Friedman shines is in his lyrics. With lines like “I miss being broken,” and “I understand what Van Gogh understood / I can see why he took off his ear,” one gets the picture of a man who isn’t afraid to wear his heart on his sleeve.

Andy Friedman and The Other Failures will be playing The Brass Rail with local openers Lee Miles and The Illegitimate Sons on Saturday, Sept. 26th at 10:00 pm. This show is 21+ and cover is TBA. It should be a great night of art/alt country/folk with a true renaissance man, combined with one of Fort Wayne’s best bands. Bring your hanky, your drinking cap, and your dancing shoes.

- Fort Wayne Reader


Taken Man (City Salvage Records), 2006
Weary Things (City Salvage Records/Kindred Rhythm) 2009



His gag cartoons have been published in The New Yorker, but the songs written by “hard scrabble singer-songwriter” (Time Out New York) and “erudite redneck” (Boston Globe) Andy Friedman aren’t written for laughs. "Friedman has a mastery of wordy self-loathing that many white dudes with guitars would kill for," says Nashville Scene. The title track to his 2006 debut studio album, "Taken Man" (City Salvage Records/Rounder Europe), found itself at #30 on the New York Post's "207 Best Songs To Download in 2007.” Other songwriters appearing on the extensive list included Amy Winehouse ("Rehab" #1), Neil Young ("Dirty Old Man" #65), and Bruce Springsteen ("Radio Nowhere" #114).

In January of 2009, Friedman -- "perhaps the truest singer-songwriter in the borough," (Go! Brooklyn) released his second studio album, Weary Things (City Salvage/Kindred Rhythm), which was greeted with enormously enthusiastic critical attention. The New Yorker praised Friedman's "hard-tack" country originals for bearing "the mark of a true artist," while called Friedman’s writing "unforgettable." Appearances on NPR's coveted Mountain Stage and a feature interview on XM's Bob Edwards Show further solidified Friedman's growing reputation as "a songwriter with an engagingly singular voice," (Philadelphia Inquirer) and a "dusty, paint-splattered Americana sage." (Rochester News & Democrat)

Old Crow Medicine Show's Ketch Secor, in a poem written about Friedman's latest work, called Weary Things a "certified, genuine American tune," while Indie-folk icon Sufjan Stevens announced, "I think the world of Andy Friedman. I've always wanted to be Andy Friedman."

In the album’s liner notes, the Pulitzer-nominated author (Jernigan) and former senior arts writer for Newsweek David Gates sets the tone for Weary Things: “What [Friedman] sees through his windshield isn’t Greil Marcus’s Old Weird America, but the weird new America where the pastoral is no longer pure.”

While his songs are anything but funny, Friedman has published over a dozen gag cartoons in The New Yorker under the pseudonym Larry Hat. Friedman, under his own name, is also an internationally recognized, award-winning illustrator, inking portraits of cultural luminaries for literally hundreds of magazines and newspapers worldwide, including recent covers for The New York Times Magazine, The Chicago Tribune Magazine, and The New Republic.

"Andy Friedman has a dark, singular sense of humor,” writes The Nashville Scene. “It serves him well as a cartoonist for the likes of the New Yorker, and it serves him even better as an acerbic singer-songwriter with a world-weary delivery and a talent for synthesizing heartache."