Wednesday, April 5, 2006

Constant Companion

Posted By on Wed, Apr 5, 2006 at 12:00 AM

Constant Companion was Ruthann Friedman's lone album. Originally released in 1969, its stripped-bare style floats alongside Clouds, Joni Mitchell's record of that year. Friedman's vocals and plucked acoustic guitar are dressed only in filmy fabric and misty morning echo, like she's singing her songs to gathered lovers and friends after a night of wine and whatever else. She lived in that famed California scene too — Friedman performed at the 1969 Big Sur Folk Festival alongside Mitchell and Joan Baez. But Companion resonates today not as a dog-eared memory, but for its arresting ability to rumple the era's psychedelic themes and folk structure with moments of unique beauty and sudden tales of warning. Hindsight might label "Fairy Prince Rainbow Man" as redundant whimsy. But Friedman's character is a bringer of dreams who's fated to die mysteriously, having "hidden himself for his love of the sun." "People" too is a lament, with the scratchy ache in Friedman's voice pleading for something real, or the recognition that Left Coast bohemia isn't necessarily paradise. With its searching themes, gorgeous artwork and evocative photography of the artist's penetrating eyes, Companion thrives as both a welcome reissue and provoking listen for all the mornings of today.

Johnny Loftus writes about music for Metro Times. Send comments to letters@metrotimes.com.

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