Valley Advocate (Northampton, MA/Pioneer Valley) 5/14/15

Andy Friedman, World Cafe Live.  Philadelphia, PA (8/1/13)

Photo: Chris Sikich

If Andy Friedman keeps making records as compelling as “Laserbeams and Dreams,” his third, then being identified as a New Yorker cartoonist will soon become the least mentioned of his accomplishments.
— The Bluegrass Special

Laserbeams and Dreams, Andy's third album of original songs.

(2011, City Salvage Records/UFO)

Here’s what happens to twang when it steeps in Brooklyn gin joints instead of Austin honky-tonks: it becomes a bit darker and more gnarled, and though it likes the sun on its back, it can thrive in the shadows. Friedman’s new “Laserbeams and Dreams” is peppered with the kind of bluesy unrest that sets your mind reeling, and between the Jerry Jeff whimsy and Michael Hurley rumination, it’s a great soundtrack for the worries that arrive during late-winter dusk.
— Jim Macnie, The Villiage Voice (3/12/11)

Andy Friedman (right) and Jeffery Foucault (left) at Off Broadway.  St. Louis, MO, 2012.

Photo: Eric Vandeveld

For the past decade, Andy Friedman has kept moving. He estimates he’s played roughly 80 shows a year since he began touring as a “Slideshow Poet” in 2002. An accomplished cartoonist and illustrator for The New Yorker (among other publications) and academically trained painter, he was itching to get out on the road and share his art in a fundamentally different way, to “look people in the eye,” he says, when they encounter his work. Friedman kept up his day job as an illustrator, working from roadside diners and hotel rooms on his drawings while playing the bars and clubs at night and toured across the country.

As he went along, something strange happened — Friedman became a musician. He first picked up the acoustic guitar in 2005, mere months before recording his debut album “Taken Man,” a witty, boisterous collection of country-rock tunes tinged with both a road weariness and a cosmopolitan self-awareness. He followed it up in 2008 with the more expansive and self-assured “Weary Things” and, in 2011, released “Laserbeams and Dreams,” a spare, elegant collection of songs recorded almost entirely live with the help of multi-instrumentalist David Goodrich and Stephan Crump.

In the process, Friedman emerged as a writer of rare ability, blending ruminations on a diverse range of subjects, from mortality and the nature of art to barroom romanticism and honest reflections from the road, all with the kind of sly allusions and imaginative language that brings to mind all of the songwriting greats. Already blessed with a deep, forlorn voice that lent a natural gravity to his songs, Friedman’s performance style also gradually shifted over the years as he came to rely less on outside musicians to put his music across and as the power of the songs themselves became clear.
— Kyle Peterson, Columbia Free Times (Columbia, SC) 2/9/13

Tour poster, 2011.  Photo: Gus Powell

Andy Friedman shows that he knows how to set a mood on “Laserbeams and Dreams.” The New York singer/songwriter went into the studio accompanied only by acoustic bassist Stephan Crump and guitarist David Goodrich to record this raw, rootsy batch of tunes in 24 hours, overdubbing nothing but one song’s guitar track, and mixing as he went. Consequently, there’s a lot of space in these cuts, and a lot of breathing room; not only is the spontaneous interaction of the three musicians captured in its pure form, both the players and the songs take their time, slowly and steadily establishing the atmosphere that intensifies as the album moves along. The organic feel of Laserbeams and Dreams is the ideal setting for these songs, which seem to represent an urbanite’s yearning for a more rural, bucolic kind of existence that’s always just out of reach for one reason or another. The lyrics Friedman delivers in his weathered workshirt of a voice are full of close observations illuminated by flashes of poetry, usually managing to maintain an equitable balance between everyday details and flights of literary fancy. The subjects he chooses for his songs, from the late folk musician John Herald (“Roll on, John Herald”) to the lack of peace in a digital age (“Quiet Blues”), display a traditionalist’s longing for things bygone, but anyone who can leap nimbly from referencing songwriter Danny O’Keefe of “Good Time Charlie’s Got the Blues” fame to painter Georgia O’Keeffe within a single line on “Down by the Willow” will never be lacking for a fresh perspective.
— James Allen, allmusic (5/11)

Andy Friedman at The Mint.  Los Angeles, CA, 2011.

Photo: Ehall Films

Friedman writes achingly profound lyrics to brooding country-folk numbers that put him almost in the same league as Tom Waits, Lou Reed, or Bob Dylan.
—, 4/6/11

Left to right: David "Goody" Goodrich, Stephan Crump, and Andy Friedman.  Brooklyn, NY, 2010.

Photo: Gus Powell

It’s time for church, it’s 5 o’clock / Pour a drink, let the record play”

So begins the latest (and best) studio effort from the Brooklyn-based art-country singer-songwriter Andy Friedman, one of the best Americana acts around today. His bleary-eyed poetry and beat-inflected delivery suggests, and rightly so, that Friedman is influenced just as much by Allen Ginsberg as he is by Johnny Cash. And even as these opening moments of his new record masterfully conjure up a smoky, half-empty barroom with a ragged-voice folk singer in the corner who would look uncomfortable anywhere else, they quickly move to being something far more surprising and adventurous.

Friedman deliberately “wanted to do something a little different” this time around, he says. The resulting album, “Laserbeams and Dreams,” was recorded in 18 hours in the home studio of jazz bassist and close friend Stephan Crump, who, along with guitarist and producer David Goodrich, provides Friedman with his only accompaniment.

Unvarnished beauty on a record is a rare thing these days, particularly with this kind of sonic subtlety. Goodrich’s mesmerizing electric guitar work recalls recent jazz greats like Pat Metheny and Bill Frisell, while Crump alternates between melodious jazz riffing to beautifully symphonic bowed string passages. Together, they give this record an otherworldly vibe that emphasizes the unique, unconventional nature of Friedman’s songs.

Not left behind in the new approach is Friedman’s signature knack for wide-ranging, complex, and varied lyricism. Although he has drawn frequent comparisons to Tom Waits, Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan for both his un-dogmatic re-imagination of American roots music and his sprawling lyrics, which effortlessly shift from humorous and referential to wizened and weary, it is truly Friedman’s range and depth that puts him in the same breath as those musical giants. His writing tackles topics both big and small, from the joys and costs of being a traveling artist to musings on life and death, art and drinking, and the odd disconnect between who he is and what he does.

The result of Friedman’s efforts are songs permeated by an urban sensibility and references to Brooklyn, even as he yearns for the rustic and the rural life of times long past. Somewhat amazingly, it is the admitted dislocation, combined with an acute awareness of the music’s history, that give him an unlikely authenticity and won him a devoted following across the country.

With his new record, Friedman should be markedly expanding his fan base, with the music behind him now equally as exciting and compelling as his lyrics.
— Kyle Peterson, Columbia Free Times (Columbia, SC) 3/4/11

1. Rex's Blues (Townes Van Zandt)
2. I Couldn't Say It To Your Face (Arther Russell)
3. Alone (Weedeater)
4. AIn't Nobody's Business (Earl Johnson)
5. All My Life (Evan Dando)
6. Jizzlobber (Faith No More)
7. Public Domain (Jerry Jeff Walker)
8. You Are Too Beautiful (John Coltrane & Johnny Hartman)
9. Leaving My Love (Langhorne Slim)
10. Strawberry Wine (Ryan Adams)
11. Probably Shouldn't Call (Andy Friedman)
12. I Will Wait (Bombadil)
13. Forever and Ever, Amen (Randy Travis)
14. Ocean Front Property (George Strait)


Andy Friedman, 2011

Photo: Ehall Films

Weaving his way back, this troubadour looks forward to his role in the family routine — washing dishes, making coffee, etc. “But after I get there, it creeps in slowly/I miss the lonely American highway,” he sings, with an unhurried tempo that suggests yet another long haul in his future.
—, on "Going Home (Drifter's Blessing)" from the 2011 album "Laserbeams and Dreams" by Andy Friedman
Steve Forbert, the tuneful troubadour from Meridian, Mississippi, has been a steady, inventive presence on the folk-rock scene since his 1978 début, “Alive on Arrival.” Opening will be Brooklyn’s Andy Friedman, a contributor of cartoons and illustrations to this magazine. Friedman’s songs draw on the deepest traditions of American music and evoke an affecting sense of loss and longing.
— The New Yorker, Goings On About Town (1/21/11)

Andy Friedman and David "Goody" Goodrich.  City Winery, NYC (1/28/11)

Photo: Peter Cunningham

Most everything about Andy Friedman’s current career has been unexpected. But the critical raves for his first two albums — “Taken Man” and “Weary Things” — and the welcome response from audiences on the road tell the 34-year-old that he’s on the right path.

His wry lyricism is his true instrument. He’s been called the “erudite redneck” by The Boston Globe, and The Associated Press listed “Weary Things” among its best overlooked albums of 2009.

Friedman hopes to do for his audiences what great songwriters have done for him over the years. “The act of sharing your songs in front of an audience is a message in itself,” he said. “I’m continuing on in the tradition of presenting my art to people who need it in a way that I needed the art when I was growing up. You’re having hard times, your heart is broken — that your lemon could be someone else’s lemonade. I could just write my songs in a closed room for myself, but the songs are for the benefit of the community. That’s the spiritual part of it.”

Being a poetic, guitar-strumming Yankee doesn’t cost him points with audiences in rural communities, either. In fact, if they do say anything, it’s that they wouldn’t have expected such gritty depth from a Brooklynite.

His “Slideshow Poetry” act, however, was another story. In Columbia, South Carolina, he challenged an audience member who threw a shoe at him on stage to an arm wrestling match. He told the man that whomever lost had to leave. Friedman pinned the man’s arm down in seconds. “The bouncer threw him out, and the crowd instantly forgave the avant-garde stuff,” he said. “I’ve been going back to Columbia ever since.
— Maria Longley, The News-Leader (Staunton, VA) 2/11/10

Illustration by Johnny Cluney for Daytrotter, 2010.

For Brooklyn’s Andy Friedman, his other projects — New Yorker cartoons and the tours with a slide projector — are just gravy. Friedman’s songwriting and the way he puts his songs across, with or without his band The Other Failures, are the mashed potatoes. And they’re top-shelf spuds, too, garlicky, with bits of skin in the mix, like the ones they blue-plate at the Nighthawk Diner. That’s a perfect setting for Friedman’s tales of the locked-out, broke-down and weary, which play out with country-blues, beat folk and twang-teased rock oozing out of your booth’s jukebox.
— Rick Cornell, Independent Weekly (Chapel Hill, NC) 1/20/10

Andy Friedman & The Golden Winners Tour Poster, 2009.

We’re not sure if we should read too much into the name of Andy Friedman’s new band—The Golden Winners, as opposed to his previous band The Other Failures—but we’re pretty confident that no come-to-Jesus moment has turned the rough-edged, hard-living singer-songwriter into a Dove Award nominee. The latest from the Brooklyn renaissance man—he’s also a poet, painter, photographer, illustrator and cartoonist whose work has appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times, Vanity Fair, The Atlantic and more—is called “Weary Things,” but in Friedman’s world, weariness and beauty aren’t mutually exclusive. In fact, they can be complementary, like the exquisite gloom of a rainy November day. If Americana is country music for liberals, then Friedman’s work is country music for literati, eschewing (for the most part) storytelling and simple morals for artful metaphors and poetic abstraction. One thing’s sure: He’s gonna love playing at Norm’s, whose real-deal juke-joint vibe is something Friedman’s hometown faux honky-tonks would give their left Nut Brown Ale for.
— Jack Silverman, The Nashville Scene (9/29/09)

Andy Friedman, Freddy's Bar (Brooklyn, NY) 2009.

Photo: Matt Dellinger

People have remarked at how odd it is that such rural music could come from someone who has spent most of his life in New York City. But the music is equally urban. It is as evocative of Brooklyn melancholy as it is of Mississippi blues.
— Steve Penhollow, Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette (9/21/09)

Andy Friedman & The Other Failures, 2008.

Photo: Matt Dellinger

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 his 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 his job at The New Yorker to begin performing spoken word poetry while projecting his artwork as a slide show.

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, but I never touched a guitar until March of 2005. I never sang a note until I sat down to record my first album.
— Ben Larson, Fort Wayne Reader (9/21/09)
It’s either brilliant booking or humorous happenstance that honky-tonk journeyman (and cartoonist) Andy Friedman is playing at Club Passim, at least after the shout-out he gives the venerable folk venue in a new song. “Speaking of New England/There’s a club called Passim/I thought I’d be a hit there/But I guess it ain’t my scene,” he sings on “Locked Out of the Building,” from his lean and mean new album, “Weary Things.
— James Reed, Boston Globe (8/9/09)

Weary Things, Andy's sophomore album of original songs.

(2009, City Salvage Records)

Andy Friedman, Hotel Utah Saloon (San Francisco, CA) 2008.

photo: Ian Fry

It wasn’t an intentional decision on Andy Friedman’s part that moved him from entertaining behind a slide projector to serenading with a guitar.

It just sort of happened. A natural evolution of his art, if you will. And while he received effusive praise for his traveling minstrel show, his music is a work of art unto itself, a haphazard collage of snapshots and observations and characters that Friedman keeps track of on scraps of paper and cocktail napkins.

”I used to be self-conscious about calling myself a musician, because I wasn’t used to it,” Friedman told The Daily Times this week. “But I don’t feel as funny about it anymore.
— Steve Wildsmith, Knoxville Daily Times (2/19/09)

Andy Friedman & The Other Failures, 2008.

Photo: Michael "Metalbelly" Ginsburg

Before 2006, Friedman’s experience in music was limited to playing saxophone in his eighth grade marching band.

“I never felt like I was a musician in my soul,” says Friedman. “I was always a painter.”

He got serious about art in high school, going to a special arts high school.

“I never took trigonometry or chemistry in high school. I was drawing from a live nude model. My whole mission in life was to paint like Caravaggio or Velazquez. I know that sounds lofty, but I just wanted to paint like the Old Masters.”

“By the time that I was 23, I made the painting that I’d wanted to make,” says Friedman. “I felt like, ‘I got it!’ I could do this for the rest of my life! I gave everything I had to it. It took a little more than two years. Then, I accidentally ruined it.”

Friedman says he went into a creative trauma and, although he still wakes up every morning feeling like he was born to be a painter, he hasn’t painted anything in the decade since that painting was ruined.

Instead, Friedman began taking Polaroid photos and eventually began touring with a slide show, projecting slides and reciting poetry.

“Somehow it worked,” he says. “Except for a time in Columbia, South Carolina when someone threw a shoe at me, but I made it part of the show by arm-wrestling him on stage.”

Then, inspired by Hank Williams’ Luke the Drifter recordings, Friedman began accompanying the slides and poems with guitar.

Eventually, the music took over and Friedman became a conventional singer-songwriter — no slides.

“The only reason I stay sane without painting is that I feel like I am painting when I write and perform my songs. I’ve learned to accept the fact that my paintings exist on the inside of the listener’s head.
— Wayne Bledsoe, Knoxville News-Sentinal, on Friedman's conversion from oil painter to "Slideshow Poet" to musician (2/19/09)

Andy Friedman & The Other Failures perform live on NPR's Mountain Stage (Charleston, WV), January 2009.

Photo: Brian Blauser

To New Yorker readers, Andy Friedman is “Larry Hat,” a wry cartoonist and cranky social scientist. In the music world, Friedman’s a wry, dry guitarist fronting the roadhouse country flair of The Other Failures. On their second album, 2009’s “Weary Things,” Friedman and his Failures go about the hazy lazy business of making music that would’ve fit perfectly into Manhattan’s Lone Star circa 1973. The songs are tear-in-your-Scotch dusty country-politan sorts done by an urban cowboy. How urban? “My name is Andy Friedman/ I’m from Brooklyn City/ I just learned guitar/ And my voice ain’t pretty” goes the live rendition of “The Friedman Holler.” Lest you take him for less than serious, Friedman’s got a jovial vocal quality, can pick a git box gently (“I Miss Being Broken, Lowdown and Alone”) and takes the lost art of talking blues (“Freddy’s Backroom”) to nice heights.
— A.D. Amorosi, Philladelphia City Paper (2/12/09)

Andy Friedman performs "Road Trippin' Daddy" from 2009's Weary Things at WNRN in Charlottesville, Virginia.  January 23, 2009.

Guitar accompaniment: Paul Curreri

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 Friedman’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.

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 album’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 (2/09)

Andy Friedman & The Other Failures dancing with the crowd after a performance at Hank's Saloon in Brooklyn, NY (2008).

Photo: Matt Dellinger

Can Andy Friedman really be this miserable?

On “I Miss Being Broken, Lowdown, and Alone,” the opening track on “Weary Things,” the first offering with his latest band, The Other Failures, Andy Friedman broodingly sings of shedding the mantle of newfound redemption for the comfort of past misery. It seems to Friedman, perhaps, that the grass is just a little bit darker on the other side of the fence.

This dark wit, for which Friedman is well known in the thriving Brooklyn country scene, is omnipresent on “Weary Things.” Produced by good friend (and guitar wizard in his own rite) Paul Curreri, Friedman and The Other Failures take a world-worn view on the album’s eleven tracks. Time and again, Friedman pines for old times, sharing the opinion that change is a challenge, that the good ol’ days - wherever they are and whatever they entailed - were just plain better.

”Freddy’s Backroom” chronicles the demise of a favorite local watering hole, “Idaho” takes on an anywhere-but-here attitude, and “Locked Out of the Building” juxtaposes the frivolity of youth with the demands of maturity. On these and the album’s other tracks, the here and now just can’t stack up against life’s used-to-bes.

Like Friedman, listeners can surely identify with the allure of yesteryear. For Friedman and The Other Failures, though, “Weary Things” is proof positive that looking forward will be just as satisfying.
— Dave Stallard, Honest Tune (3/09)

Andy Friedman, Rhinebeck, NY, 2008.

Photo: Matt Dellinger

Andy Friedman has been described as the “hillbilly Leonard Cohen,” but that’s not quite right. True, Friedman’s music is slow, lugubrious, smart and dipped in country heartache, but Friedman — who is also a cartoonist for The New Yorker — has probably more in common with Kris Kristofferson, Tom Waits and even Shane MacGowan of the Pogues, just in terms of a shale-voiced and poetic take of spiritual decrepitude. “I miss being broken,” he sings here. And you think, Sounds pretty broken to me.
— John Adamian, Hartford Advocate (3/15/09)

Andy Friedman, Cleveland, OH, 2008.

Photo: Ian Fry

You could easily mistake Brooklyn-born Andy Friedman for yet another aging hipster with a Tom Waits fixation. But behind the soul patch and porkpie hat there’s a more complicated character. Friedman is a visual artist (he made his name as a New Yorker illustrator), and his initial forays into music were spoken-word riffs on the life of an artist. This experimental and philosophical tone informs “Weary Things,” his second album. The songs include a long story about art and impermanence, an obituary for a doomed Brooklyn bar, and a wistful tune about a well-adjusted father nostalgic for his past as a drunk loner. Friedman’s serendipitous stories, anchored by a rock-steady Brooklyn-blues backup band, offer an almost clinical examination of the insides of an artist’s skull.
— Joseph Hart, Utne Reader (3/09)

Andy Friedman "Alone On Guitar" Tour Poster, 2009.

Illustration: Lara Tomlin

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.
— Steve Pick, NoDepression (1/09)

Andy Friedman and The Other Failures' Matt "Rockteacher" Walsh perform at Brooklyn's Southpaw (1/09)

Photo: H.H. Mendheim

Andy Friedman and The Other Failures' Greg Donohue perform at Brooklyn's Southpaw (1/09)

Photo: H.H. Mendheim

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.
— (1/09)

Andy Friedman, Rockwood Music Hall, NYC, 2008.

Photo: Ben Parker

As country singers go, Brooklyn’s Andy Friedman makes for a pretty good RISD graduate with a bunch of cartoons published in The New Yorker. Which is to say — as he admits himself in his second album’s live, disc-closing blues stomp, “The Friedman Holler” — his “voice ain’t pretty.” In fact, it’s pretty darn flat. But he has ideas regardless: About bohemia forfeited to growing up and to gentrification, about how being a painter is like being a singer, about being a rambling man in an age when there ain’t no more hobos.

In “Idaho,” he yearns for the open road and “land of the Sinclair gas station sign,” not to mention for that torn sweatshirt he forgot in a diner near Spokane once. And then in “Road Trippin’” he’s updating the same Kerouacky theme, first as a gruff sort of rockabilly-chug and later in a sleepier reprise. He sees romance in his own fatigue, too (follows his “Weary Things” title track with a “Weary Apology”), but he’s more alive when his new son is poking him in the eye, waking him up from a 5am nostalgia dream about his old bar-hopping nights. That’s in “Freddy’s Backroom,” an eight-minute shaggy-dog eulogy for that Brooklyn dive-bar and Hank’s Saloon, both about to be displaced by a basketball stadium. He laments a lost scene that reminds him of the communal LP cover of Jerry Jeff Walker’s 1976 “It’s a Good Night For Singin’.” And he makes you wish you’d spent more time there yourself.
— Chuck Eddy, (1/09)

"Idaho" CD single

B-side: "Road Trippin' Daddy"

(2008, City Salvage Records)

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 The 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.
— (1/09)

Andy Friedman, 2008.  Woodstock, NY.

photo: Paul Curreri

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. “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 (1/25/09)
A New Yorker cartoonist by day, Friedman would head to the clubs at night to fuse his paintings and photographs with spoken-word performances. The effect here is similar, taking his art to the next level and emerging on record as a dusty, paint-splattered Americana sage. He’s a quirky work in progress, for sure, from a guy whose previous efforts include songs of failure like “I Don’t Want to Die Like Andy Kaufman.” “Art is the result of a passion, what you mean and what you feel will stay in fashion,” he sings. “My story about perfection ain’t complete, it takes for paint to dry, a year at least.” Uncovering singular thinkers in today’s lemmings world is a tough assignment. Friedman may be on his way. Find “Weary Things” in the more eclectic stores Tuesday.
— Jeff Spevak, Rochester Democrat & Chronicle (1/23/09)

Wayne "The Train" Hancock and Andy Friedman after a performance at the Jalopy Theater in Brooklyn, NY.  January, 2009.

Photo: Lynette Wiley

On his second album since he picked up a guitar and began making the transition from an illustrator and cartoonist to a singer/songwriter, Andy Friedman still isn’t taking himself or his new profession too seriously, and his music is all the better for it. The title “Weary Things” signals that much of the material is taken at a loose, easy pace, as if performed during a well-lubricated second set in a nightclub near closing time. And “nightclub” may be too nice a word; Friedman’s music, played by a backup band called the Other Failures that seems to consist of a revolving cast (six different people are credited for drums on the album, for example), might best be called “roadhouse,” a combination of folk, country, blues, rockabilly, R&B, and rock, by turns, intended to be heard in a place where people are drinking hard. Freidman himself (or the persona implied by the first-person lyrics, anyway) may be doing some of that drinking, or may just be reflecting nostalgically on when he could. The basic story of the songs is one about a man who used to be a rover, but has reformed due to marriage and fatherhood, yet longs for the old days and returns to them by hitting the road as a performing musician. Thus, the proceedings begin with “I Miss Being Broken, Lonesome, and Alone,” and they conclude with “Friedman Holler,” recorded live, in which the artist leaves little doubt about his identity or intentions: “My name is Andy Friedman/I’m from Brooklyn City/I just learned guitar/And my voice ain’t pretty.” Actually, his voice isn’t bad, at least for this kind of music, and he would do well not to bother with so much echo in an attempt to augment it. But he is still at his best when speaking in rhythm, as he does in the lengthy talking blues “Freddy’s Backroom,” which goes on for eight minutes and easily could go on another eight without losing interest.
— William Ruhlmann, allmusic (1/09)

Andy Friedman talks with Charlie Louvin (right) after opening for the country legend at The Evening Muse in Charlotte, NC.

February, 2009.

Photo: Joe Kuhlmann

Friedman—a cartoonist turned musician—is a sort of mechanical bull: a gruff-snorting beast restricted to a few simple moves but capable of more than a few gut-busting surprises. With “Weary Things,” Friedman sharpens his horns and starts to throw his weight around. The Brooklyn bull’s second proper album and first with his committed ranch hands, the Other Failures, still busts buckaroo balls, but does something a bit more interesting for listeners that hang on for the ride. “Weary Things” shows more of Friedman in the music; it plays out like the biography of a beaten animal, rocked hard and put away late, but pleased with the ache in its mechanical joints.
— Brendan Fitzgerald, CVille Weekly (Charlottesville, VA) 1/21/09

Andy Friedman performing at The Garage (Winston-Salem, NC) 2008.

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, Performing Songwriter (1/09)

Andy Friedman & The Other Failures, 400 Bar (Minneapolis, MN) 2008.

Left to right: Andy Friedman, Adriane Palikat, Greg Donohue, and Matt "Rockteacher" Walsh.

photo: Laurie Stirratt

By all accounts, Andy Friedman is about as educated and cultured as they come. He’s a classically trained artist who’s studied at the Pratt Institute and Rhode Island School of Design; he’s also had the rare opportunity to work in the editorial department at The New Yorker. But over the years, Friedman has deconstructed his obsessive-compulsive approach to art (he spent years trying to perfect a single oil painting during his time at RISD) and traded High-Renaissance techniques for Polaroid photography, cosmopolitan sensibilities for down-home style. The artist/musician/poet channels the simple genius of folk music legends Leonard Cohen, Townes Van Zandt and others through his band Andy Friedman & The Other Failures, appearing tonight at Smith’s Olde Bar.
— Debbie Michaud, Creative Loafing (9/29/08)

Andy Friedman performs in Austin, Texas, 2009.

Photo: Michael Hall

Andy Friedman struck gold last Wednesday, mining a rich vein of rockabilly, twangy rock and country waltzes that gave a toe-tapping essence to his wry and profoundly candid lyrics.

Singing for a crowd of 75 at Thursday’s tavern in Bridgewater, Friedman proved why he’s hailed as “The King of Art Country” with a 70-minute set that flew by like a freight train.

In affecting songs like “Taken Man,” the Brooklyn singer described the rewards and challenges of balancing faithfulness with wanderlust.

Backed by his dexterous three-piece band, the Other Failures, Friedman’s standout song was an unreleased one, “Freddy’s Back Room,” a simmering ballad decrying the steady death of neighborhood bars. By song’s end, all the regulars of Freddy’s reluctantly find themselves gathered in the backroom of a homogenized restaurant chain.

“I wrote that song about a bar called Freddy’s being torn down, but it’s turned into a song about every mom and pop business in America being knocked down,” Friedman told me the next afternoon as his tour van sped toward a gig in Johnson City, Tenn.

The relevance of “Freddy’s Bar” shouldn’t have been lost on the small but close-knit crowd at Thursday’s, which stuck around late to socialize with Friedman and his band mates. I was one of a handful of people who left at 11 p.m., believing the show was done. Whoops.

“Everyone ended up buying us shots and got us all riled up, so 40 minutes after the show was over we got back onstage and did an encore,” Friedman said.

Bet that never happens at a restaurant chain.
— Scott Tady, Allegheny Times (3/2/08)

Taken Man, Andy's debut album of original songs.

(2006, City Salvage Records)

In the scheme of things, Andy Friedman’s musical career is relatively young. In 2002, after emerging as a professional cartoonist (most notably penning celebrity illustrations for the New Yorker), he began performing, but not as a musician the way most of us picture one. He took to the road with an act that involved live illustrated oral performances — songs without music, as it were.

More recently, he’s come into a more traditional setup, fronting a band called Andy Friedman & The Other Failures and recording his first full-length of gritty alt-country (or “art country,” as he’s prone to calling it). “Taken Man” is a collection of clever songs that take the arty and urbane elements that one might expect from a New Yorker illustrator, and mix them with a raw roadhouse sound that one might not.

Friedman, a Brooklyn native, bases much of his songwriting on a sense of unrest and dissatisfaction, tempered with a kind of storytelling that’s reminiscent of the old country music from which he draws inspiration. “Guys Like Me Don’t Get Grants” is clearly a New York artist’s tongue-in-cheek update on the bluesy country of yore. “David Berman,” on the other hand, is a clever retelling of how Friedman was once accused of biting the Silver Jews frontman’s style (he’d never heard him before) and how he then met Berman and became a fan.

Friedman’s introspection and plain-spoken songwriting might seem like a different side of the illustrator than we’re used to seeing, but a closer look reveals that perhaps the two aren’t so unrelated. His celebrity drawings, heavy on shading and exaggerated physical features, are often very real, just like his songwriting. If you’re more familiar with his pen than his growl, you may want to get better acquainted.
— Andy Mulkerin, Pittsburgh City Paper (1/21/08)

Andy Friedman, 2006.

Photo: Gus Powell

Andy Friedman is a folk legend — at least in Columbia, South Carolina. He quite possibly is the only performer to have a shoe thrown at him from the audience at The Hunter-Gatherer.

And this is where the legend begins.

Friedman, who has performed in Columbia three times, has done something different at each show. At tonight’s performance, you’ll hear a songwriter who has blossomed into an alt-country and folk balladeer, which is something more than the poet who incited the shoe incident.

At that Hunter-Gatherer show, with projected slides as a backdrop, Friedman grumbled words that went with the pictures.

”It was a really drunk late night in a bar. Some people were into it and some weren’t,” he recalled recently. “And someone threw a shoe.”

”I’m fine with hecklers,” he said. “Sometimes they motivate me to do things that I wouldn’t normally do.”

But that night — or maybe it was the moment — got to Friedman.

”It was a sensitive moment in the performance,” Friedman explained. “Not that I need quiet, but this guy starts yelling that I was ripping off David Berman and Daniel Johnston. I hadn’t heard of those musicians yet. This was actually how I got into them. But, in the meantime, I kind of exploded and challenged him to an arm wrestle,” Friedman said. “And he came down to the stage.”

”I’m very good at arm wrestling,” said Friedman. “I told him that if he even broke my 90 degree angle, that I would leave.”

Friedman didn’t have to leave. And now he’s back again. This time with his brand new backing band, The Other Failures.

Friedman’s music is a mix of country, rockabilly, and folk. “Taken Man,” his debut album, has been lauded by critics. The stories in songs such as “Self-Portrait In White Knuckle Death Grip” don’t wind like poetry — they head straight for you.

For Friedman, the progression from grumbling poet to rambling singer has been satisfying.

”As an artist, I’m always evolving,” he said. He’s become something of a rock star now, albeit on an indie scale.

”I get up on stage and hopefully someone will get something out of it,” Friedman said. “If not, at least I have a good time.”

And he might take home a shoe.
— Otis Taylor, Jr., The State (Columbia, SC) 6/1/07

Andy Friedman with The Defibulators, 2007.

Singer-songwriter Andy Friedman has a mastery of wordy self-loathing that many white dudes with guitars would kill for. An erstwhile cartoonist for the New Yorker, Friedman also has an irreverent wit that rescues his twangy tunes from the masses—“I can’t understand what it’s like to be booed by millions of adoring fans, but one thing I know is what it’s like to be booed by 16 or 17 undergrads.” The casual country bent feels refreshingly ironic up against the casual, dare-I-say Brooklyn-style nonchalance of his delivery.
— Lee Stabert, Nashville Scene (9/27/07)

Andy Friedman, 2007.

Photo: Ian Fry

Andy Friedman, a Brooklyn cartoonist (for The New Yorker, among others) and hardscrabble singer-songwriter, recently released ‘Taken Man’ (City Salvage), an album of ten darkly humorous songs (see ‘I Don’t Want To Die Like Andy Kaufman’ and ‘Guys Like Me Don’t Get Grants’). On the cover of his disc, Friedman is clearly betting the rent money on a game of Skee-Ball — in other words, these are songs for those who wash down life’s knuckle sandwiches with ice-cold despair.
— Time Out New York (6/06)
He may sound like Lou Reed channeling a Bob Dylan head cold, and plays old school country so worn down even the ruts have ruts, but this is no nostalgia or novelty act. In the end, [Friedman’s songs] work because they’re both clever and poignant enough that you won’t care if he is playing Strauss waltzes on a Jew’s harp and sings like Roseanne Barr.
— Creative Loafing (6/06)
The appeal of Friedman’s music is his ability to write simple and evocative songs in an age where vague, abstract themes often dominate. . .It’s not country in the Willie Nelson/Johnny Cash vein, but it’s no less country music. . .’Taken Man’ shows a great deal of promise and could propel Friedman into the annals of American music.
— Oxford Town (Oxford, MS) (6/06)
Can you imagine a New Yorker cartoonist growling and singing? Even if you can, Andy Friedman will transcend your imaginings. . .Song titles such as “I Don’t Want To Die Like Andy Kaufman” and “Guys Like Me Don’t Get Grants” should tell you all you need to know.
— Birmingham Weekly (6/06)

Andy Friedman & The Other Failures, Live at the Bowery Poetry Club

(City Salvage Records, 2006)

When he first takes the stage, strumming an acoustic guitar and singing songs about lonely highways and bar fights, Andy Friedman seems every bit the country musician. But then the screen behind him lights up with an abstract wash of colors or a photograph of a postcard, and the songs sink in deeper while the story he’s telling turns funny. A sometime cartoonist for The New Yorker, Friedman has been called a “slideshow poet” and a “singer-conceptualist,” but there is no easy shorthand for his mix of monologue, projection, music, and the occasional arm-wrestling context with a heckler. Here, Friedman will wrap up a residency at the Bowery Poetry Club with his band, The Other Failures.
— The Onion, 7/7/05

Andy Friedman, "Slideshow Poet."

Pete's Candy Store (Brooklyn, NY) 1/28/05

Photo: Jori Klein for Newsday

Wearing a trucker cap and dirty jeans and sporting a thick beard, Andy Friedman looks like a hardscrabble Midwesterner or maybe a grease monkey at a NASCAR track. On a recent Monday night at Hank’s, a dark little bar in Brooklyn’s Fort Greene neighborhood, Friedman also sounds like a good ol’ boy, strumming his acoustic guitar and singing about small-town bar brawls.

But Friedman also wields another “instrument” of sorts: a remote control that operates a nearby slide projector, which in turn throws up images on a screen behind him. Narly all of these images — faces, places, abstract color combinations — are paintings, drawings, or photographs by Friedman.

What is this? Some kind of performance art? No, but it’s a question Friedman gets all the time. “It’s like Hank Williams,” he explains, “but with visuals.”

Friedman, an East Meadow native who lives in Brooklyn, has been hauling his guitar and slide projector to dive bars around the country for the past three years. On stage, he enhances his songs with carefully chosen visuals or, just as often, he enhances the visuals with carefully tailor-made songs. His wry country tune “Cheat With The Highway,” for example, is accompanied by images of lonely mailboxes, a seedy motel and a postcard that says, “Sorry! Too Damn Busy To Write!”

Friedman likes to cover Johnny Paycheck, Hank Williams, and others in between his original country-folk tunes. He recently assembled a band called The Other Failures that consists of an upright bass and a fiddler. And if the whole thing seems too artsy for you, feel free to speak up.

“I like a noisy crowd,” Friedman says. “I arm-wrestled someone on stage recently because they were heckling. I won.
— Rafer Guzman, Newsday (5/26/05)
Falling in love with a musician is easy. Who doesn’t want someone around playing and singing about your private nuances and secret moments? It’s just as easy to fall in love with a painter for similar reasons. And what if this painter was also a musician who used both forums to express your intimate knowings? Well, you’d be rushing to the Justice of the Peace in a throbbing heartbeat. Andy Friedman is sure to win you over with his guitar and art slideshow. Better known as the “Slideshow Poet,” he’s also been called the “Johnny Cash of painting.” Whatever the fuck he is, he puts on a hell of an exhibition. In regards to his artistic development, Friedman says the mix tape was his inspiration: “Here was the way I could tell a particular someone about what and how I was feeling wihtout having to open my mouth. It was only a matter of time before I saw that my paintings and drawings could be mix tapes of their own.” His visual mix tape is presented to bar audiences with songs and images that simultaneously compliment and activate the sounds and colors of one another. He’s a painter who breathes life into his work in ways that make a gallery seem like a graveyard. You may sit in silent awe of Friedman’s show, but there will be plenty to talk about on your way home.
— The Portland Phoenix, 6/10/05

Andy Friedman performs at Hank's Saloon (Brooklyn, NY) 2005

Photo: Matt Dellinger

While most artists are content to slap their work on a white wall, then rush out the door in order to avoid eye contact with people and small animals, artist, photographer, and poet Andy Friedman prefers to make his art a sensory experience. He is from New York, after all. Tonight at the Lizard Lounge, young master Friedman shows slides of his drawings and photographs while reading his poems and lyrics. As he reads, a band accompanies him with a blues-tinged country soundtrack. It’s sort of like cabaret for erudite rednecks from blue states.
— Christopher Muther, Boston Globe (2/3/05)

Andy Friedman & The Other Failures at The Bowery Poetry Club (NYC), 2005

Photo: Gus Powell

People still call what I’m doing a reading, because I’m not holding a guitar,” says Andy Friedman with a slight hint of frustration. “But what I’m doing is not a reading. It’s not a one-man play. It’s not a monologue. These are songs. I’ve got my records, which are my books, and I’ve got my concerts.”

Confused? Well, don’t be. In plain English, what Friedman’s saying is that he has neologized the terms painting, record, and songs, and now he can pretty much do whatever he damn well pleases with them.

It takes quite a leap of faith to simply shrug off societal and cultural conventions, and start fresh, but it’s a modus operandi that has serves scores of creative minds throughout history extremely well, so Andy is in good company.

Leaps of faith are something the former art student (he studied classical painting at the estimable Rhode Island School of Design) is becoming quite accustomed to. First, he gave up his longstanding notion that to be a great painter you had to be a half-mad perfectionist, and work exlusively in oils, like his heroes Ingres and Velezquez.

Next, he gave up a hard-won job as the assistant to the Cartoon Editor at The New Yorker, to become, in his words, a “brave artist.” Then he set out to create a new and unique way of looking at two-dimensional art. Namely, he fused the act of observing slides of his drawings, paintings, and Polaroid photographs with the act of listening to him recite impressionistic, blues-inspired lyrics along with each piece.

Lyrics which are part and parcel of the work itself, and which he believes are integral to understanding the spirit and artistic inspiration behind each work.

Then, he took the show on the road. First as a solo act — just an old-fashioned carousel-type projector and school assembly screen — then with a two-piece backing band he calls The Other Failures.

Together, they’re upending long-held notions about what makes a painting a painting, a song a song, and the blues the blues.
— Jim Reed, Connect Savannah (1/12/05)

Other Failures: (left to right) David Gates, Jason Hogue, and Greg McMullen

It’s called “slideshow poetry.” Mixing visual art (paintings, drawings and snapshots displayed with a slide projector) with music, courtesy of a band called The Other Failures, and rambling monologues, Friedman creates a tantalizing hybrid—images tied to music tied to wayward observations.

Together, they often rise to the level of high art even as they labor amid grungy bars and smoky coffeehouses and despite their being delivered by a vagabond Brooklynite seemingly in constant need of a hot shower and a clean shave.

“My performance is a way of activating my art,” Friedman says from New York City.

In simple terms, Friedman is a visual artist adapted to the life of a rock n’ roll musician. He tours relentlessly. He presides over the stage before a backup band. His “instrument” is a slide remote. His “songs” are his spoken-word meditations. With each image, the music plays. Each verse is accompanied by a different picture—mostly drawings and Polaroids of his many travels and people he’s met and loved across the country.

In broader terms, Friedman is a kind of everyman artist eschewing the calcified barriers between high and low art. Instead of galleries and museums, he chooses to show his work in bars, nightclubs, and coffeehouses — anywhere where there are ordinary people willing to experience his peculiar vision of Americana.
— John Stoehr, Savannah Morning News (1/13/05)

Photo: Matt Dellinger

Andy Friedman, a Brooklyn-based visual artist, grew up on Long Island in the eighties, where, as he puts it, Billy Joel was his Woody Guthrie. For the past few years, he’s been traveling the country, confusing promoters (they don’t know how to label his shows) and winning over audiences by projecting his drawings, photographs, and paintings onstage and delivering stories of often funny, mostly extemporaneous monologues that connect the images to folk and blues standards. More recently, he added a bass-guitar-mandolin backing band that pushes his performance into the realm of cabaret.
— The New Yorker, 12/20/04

Andy Friedman, 2005.  Bowery Poetry Club (NYC)

Photo: Matt Dellinger

Andy Friedman calls himself a “painter with lyrics, a rock n’ roller without a guitar.” The artist believes the pursuit of art should be the focus, not the object itself. While his band The Other Failures plays country-tinged rock, Friedman shows slides of his original pencil sketches and Polaroids and reads poems like “Things You Can Do For Free”: “Are you lonesome tonight? Sizzle up a skillet of bacon and listen to that greasy applause.
— Grant Britt, Independent Weekly (1/12/04)
Caustic, funny, and as unstoppable as an avalanche roaring down a mountain, Andy Friedman digs in his heels and goes off on everything from modern day media to the art world in a torrent of words that passes by as fast as a New York minute. If his performances are anything like his phone conversations, expect one hell of a show Friday night at Sam Bonds Garage.

When there’s love, it’s true love, but Friedman doesn’t work in shades of gray. And neither will you. You’ll either think this 29-year-old, Brooklyn-born, “Don’t you dare call me a spoken word artist” rocks the house or that he sucks. Friedman said he loves Eugene because Eugene loves him. Maybe that’s because he’s pushing the envelope, doing something different. We like that.

Friedman performs songs—except that he doesn’t sing; he speaks his lyrics. And instead of instruments, he uses pictures, mostly photographs. At least that’s how it started out. Now he’s actually got some musicians playing with him. He couldn’t bring the band on this tour so instead, local musicians that he won’t meet until he enters the stage will accompany him on Friday.

“People describe what I do and they’ll say, ‘He shows pictures and reads poems,’” Friedman said. “But literally, my pictures have lyrics. It’s not multimedia. It’s not a poetry reading. It’s not spoken word. Those terms just make me seethe. I’m a painter, a visual artist, a performer. I don’t need any other monikers.”

Three years ago he quit his day job at The New Yorker to go on tour and do his thing full time. Ever since then he’s been amping crowds, who either boo him off stage or stand mesmerized in awe. He uses his own life as fodder for his pieces but said his favore subjects are “energy and spirit and wanderlust, loneliness and rejection.”

Across the country alternative newsweeklies have dubbed him the next big thing. See for yourself.
— Melissa Bearns, Eugene Weekly (11/18/04)

Photo: Ann Weathersby

The voice of Howard Stern. Nine o’clock and no dread yet. Two-plus years as a touring artist, a “slide-show poet” whose art has moved from gallery walls onto rock-club stages and low-lit taverns via a slide-show performance—and now time to finish new work. The draw-ing waiting for me on the easel. The wife Tara gone already, her school-day social work begun. No rushing: Stick to the rituals, stay loose, warm up like an athlete.

First thing is reading: Pick up the Skip James biography, although it’s not the preferred choice. Left the Andy Kaufman book in the Catskills. Trying not to think too hard about the drawing. Gotta check the e-mail because no bookings, no money. Hate the e-mail, feel like a junkie. Need an agent, a manager. There’s one good mes-sage: Some Colorado guy bought my book off the Website. Collection of my work—writing and drawings.

The ringing phone while packing up the book. Tara, to say hello. Look at the photo of her on the fridge while talking, a family-reunion shot from before we met. Wonder what Tara was like then. Ask her about it, her different hair. When are we gonna have a kid not mentioned. Both of us thinking about that, sometimes talking. Soon maybe. Grew my sideburns long for the wedding just so our future kids would laugh at their parents’ wedding photos.

Heading outside. Sending myself through the mail: Andy Friedman, the maverick visual artist—invite him to come and play in your town. He goes to bars and music clubs, gets onstage, shows his pictures on a science-class projector screen. Kind of performance art, kind of a reading—it’s a new something. Painter with lyrics, pictures and words that come together in a rambling, country-blues-rock-and-roll-cabaret spoken song. (But no music.) When will the Times write about me the punks. Down four flights onto St. Marks Avenue. Nod to the stroke-victim guy with a million cigarettes at his feet. “Hey, champ,” in reply.

Back home: starting to think about the drawing a bit, and what albums to play while working. First new drawings in three years, shit. Turn on NPR and hear Brian Lehrer. Always about the war. Is he a pink-faced white man in a sweater? Boil the water for the green tea, the Cream of Wheat—the kid on the box a dead ringer for Speiser, a friend from second grade.

Brush my teeth: Sour mouthtaste would distract me. Take the taped piece of paper off the drawing: a pen and pencil of a man stubbing out a cigarette in a plant bed. Extremely detailed work: Spent last week on the shadow behind the head. Two weeks on the hair. Put in “Love and Theft,” Swordfishtrombones, and Bryter Layter. Sony headphones over the ears. Hit play, and then light the candle. It’s gotta work in the first five minutes. Stare at the man’s arm. Pick up the pencil—a Ticonderoga Extra Soft No. 1. Sharpen the pencil with the razor. Three strokes. Re-sharpen. Three strokes. Re-sharpen. I’m in the arm. I’m falling into the picture. I’m gone.

Hours pass. Sense of hunger, smell of hot wax. I’m out of the picture. The candle snuffed out on its own. A signal that the working time is done. Has that happened before, all timed perfect like that? Cover the drawing on the easel. Brew coffee. Find the vein: Go and check e-mail. Take off shorts and T-shirt, and put on pants, plaid shirt, and a straw hat.

Walk to Vanderbilt Avenue. The neighborhood triple crown achieved years ago—Freddy’s bar, Vanderbilt Laundromat, diner called The Usual, all know Andy, say hello Andy, and no reason to leave ever really. Order a bacon burger deluxe with fries at The Usual. A few burger bites while watching the Twins game on television. Three days of no shaving: not depressed enough yet.

Home again and the ritual of falling back into the picture, except now it’s Jackson Browne’s Late for the Sky and Lucinda Williams’s Sweet Old World in the CD player. No point working after nine o’clock anyway. Sit down on the couch and join Tara in the middle of a Sex and the City. The girls are in L.A.

Tara gets a phone call, and now it’s a no-man’s land for me. E-mail-addict thing creeping up. Find the vein: Go and check. Oberlin offers a November date to come out and perform, another pin to put in the map. Mississippi John Hurt recorded a live record there, maybe I’ll do the same. Find a slice from nearby Gino’s pizza in the fridge. Tara says, “You’re microwaving that?” And I say, “That’s the way I grew up.” Long Island pride.

Friends from Atlanta phone up and say they’re here and can I come out for a beer? Then another call and they’ve ended up in Clinton Hill. Too late to go. Turn out all the lights and recede to the back room. Look through the book of Ingres drawings, and admire his untortured lines. Go back into the studio, uncover the drawing for a look. Different from the others but satisfying.

Midnight and a peek in at the sleeping wife. Turn on the TV to Blind Date. Dread leaving, body relaxing. The girl is a really hot Russian model. Put my hand on my head when her geeky date grabs her—“Vhat are you doing that for!” TV off and the burbling Brooklyn sounds. In bed with Skip James bio and the book-lite attached. The batteries are weakening. The pages turn yellow and then brownish-orange. The light fades, then dies. Twice today, all perfect-timed like that.
— Michael Agger, New York (6/21/04)

Future Blues, 2004 (City Salvage Records)

Andy Friedman is primarily a visual artist. Yet the often staid and stilted gallery method of showing off his work left him deeply unsatisfied. What he envisioned was more of a rock n’ roll approach. Friedman was hungry for the instant gratification that thespians and rock stars are afforded, that tangible connection with the audience that can only be attained through live performance. But how does one animate two-dimensional visual art in such a way to make it both intellectually stimulating and entertaining?

With a slide projector. With stream of consciousness monologues that ring poetic. With a respect for—and a genuine desire to connect with—the ugy with the Miller High Life who paid his cover charge. Friedman has no guitar, doesn’t claim to be a musician, yet he insists, “A performer needs only a true and heartfelt light to rock a crowd.”

The 29-year-old Brooklyn performance artist is coming to rock our little corner of the world next Wednesday night with a show at Eichardt’s Pub in Sandpoint, Idaho. Eichardt’s seems a perfect venue for Friedman, who typically shuns high falutin’ concert halls and snooty galleries in favor of places with bar stools and smoky back rooms. It’s in these environments the he finds the audiences, the people he’s attempting to reach. And he wants nothing less that to drastically alter notions of “art performance” forever.

“The reason I’ve been touring the nation’s bars and music clubs for almost three years,” he says, “is to bring a live, poetic forum to the visual arts.”

Friedman’s performances are a captivating mix of spoken lyrics set to a slideshow presentation of his drawings and photographs. It’s an unholy union of beat poetry and travelogue. It works for him—and for audiences all over the country who have witnessed the unique spectacle. Friedman has received favorable reviews in The New Yorker, The Boston Globe, and in weeklies from San Francisco to Nashville. He’s also recently been the subject of a BBC radio feature.

And at the end of each performance, patrons may purchase a copy of the artist’s album. Only at this rock show, the “albums” are in soft cover. Friedman’s second book, “Future Blues” (published by his own City Salvage Records label) is a collection of Polaroid photographs and evocative ramblings about place, people, and time. In it, he references traditional country blues and folk songs as he blends his photography and words.

“I’d been listening to a lot of interpreters,” he says. “Musicians like Ry Cooder and Dave Van Ronk, who took old songs, turned them around, and presented something new in the composition. “I did the same, and the result was a book of pictures. It’s about a guy who found his road, but is too busy driving on it to look out the window.”

Slow down, then. Look. Listen. And don’t be surprised if your preconceptions are short-circuited, if not completely rewired.
— Mike Corrigan, The Pacific Northwest Inlander (11/8/04)
Can someone please tell Andy Friedman that he no longer needs to wear, like, six hats to make ends meet? In fact, you can tell him tonight when he stops by Zeitgeist Gallery to read his poetry and show slides of his art. Friedman is all about getting his art to the people. To do this, he busts out the slide projector and shows his Polaroids and pencil drawings, plus reads his verse, which is influenced by folk troubadours of yore. In fact, he’s been doing this for the past two years, plus running his small record label. The suggested donation is $7, but perhaps if you donate more, poor Friedman can finally focus on just one pursuit.
— Christopher Muther, Boston Globe (4/28/04)

Photo: Daniel Coston

Andy Friedman is a ramblin’ man. You can could call him an artist: he was trained as a painter, though lately he’s been working in pencil and Polaroid. You coul call him a poet, though when he recites the word, he might be quoting a country bluesman or talking off the top of his head, and while he’s doing it, he’ll be showing his work via slide projector. He collects his poetry and his rambles and his Polaroids and his drawings into chapbooks and packages them like LPs through an imprint he calls City Salvage Records. His lates, “Future Blues,” includes a picture of three young ladies clad only in cloth panties in a rundown apartment, their faces collaged out with Picasso masks, blowing kisses from in front of a famous “Great Day in Harlem” photo. It’s a pretty good picture. Friedman rambles into Zeitgeist Gallery.
— Boston Phoenix, 4/23/04

Andy Friedman, 2005.  The Evening Music (Charlotte, NC)

Photo: Daniel Coston

Using a slide projector instead of a guitar and a monologue rather than songs, bar performer Andy Friedman tours as relentlessly as any band. He hopes, he wrote in a recent email, “to bring a live, poetic forum to the visual arts.” While that kind of talk belies the man’s lumberjack whiskers and baseball cap, he’s serious, or at least he’s seriously been winning over audiences with his slide-show for two solid years. The projected images are of Friedman’s drawings, Polaroids of places he’s been, and the occasional semiartistic naked lady: a perfect way to lure barstool warmers into the art world.
— San Francisco Weekly, 3/24/04
Postmodernism would love nothing more than to drag visual art out of its gated museums and expensive galleries and make it as accessible as film or music. How delightfully egalitarian it would be to toss out the terminology and just let everyone check out some art. Postmodernism itself actually has a little trouble crusading for this sort of change since it is but a theory. But Andy Friedman is a real, live person and he is taking up the cause as his own.
— Portland Phoenix, 4/16/04
Friedman said that he realized some time ago that he wasn’t going to be satisfied with merely hanging his paintings in an art gallery for people to look at. In fact, Friedman refers to his work as “songs”—the pictures he projects and the words he speaks playing off each other like the inseparable music and lyrics of a good rock song.

Friedman said that while his artistic influence comes from growing up listening to rock music, his “chops” are in painting. This forced him to figure out how to bring the two together.

“I’m just a painter trying to figure out how to rock a club.
— Craig Giammona, The Forecaster (Portland, ME) 4/16/04

Andy Friedman, 2004  (Charlottesville, VA)

Photo: Gus Powell

An Interview with Davy Rothbart

Andy Friedman is a Brooklyn-based artist and the founder of City Salvage Records. His first book, “Drawings & Other Failures,” collected his pencil drawings and Polaroid photographs to stunning effect. In addition to showcasing his work in galleries, Friedman has struck upon a unique way to share his art with others—by touring like the rock n’ roll musicians he idolized as a kid. His unusual blend of visual art and performance has earned him praise from The New Yorker and the Boston Globe, among others. In the midst of another whirlwind zigzag through the country in support of his newest book, “Future Blues,” Friedman took a few minutes to rap with old friend and Ann Arbor Paper reporter Davy Rothbart.

Davy: How many cities are you going to on this tour?

Andy: I count the days, not the cities. Even if I played Buffalo fifteen nights in a row, I’d still be gone from my home and my wife for two weeks.

Davy: Have you ever considered playing Buffalo fifteen nights in a row?

Andy: They’ve never even agreed to have me for one.

Davy: What happens exactly at your shows?

Andy: I’m on stage accompanying projections of my pencil drawings, paintings, and photographs with a monologue—no, an introspective rant—no, an introspective ramble. I accompany my pictures with an hour-long introspective ramble.

Davy: I don’t know any other painters that go on tour. How did this touring begin?

Andy: I was born and raised on rock records and going to shows, listening to music. I’m not a musician, I don’t have any songs, but I have what I have. It only felt natural to get on the road and find a way to perform my art, to get it out to people—not to lecture about it, but to relay it to people. It’s not so different from a rock concert, I’m just a painter doing it.

Davy: That’s cool as hell. Dude, can I open for you?

Andy: Sure, why not.

Davy: Tell me about your new book. Or album, as they’ve been called. I like that your books have been called albums.

Andy: “Drawings & Other Failures” was about a guy searching for something and all of the confusion involved with that process. “Future Blues” is about a guy who found what he was looking for, and all of the confusion involved with that. I got into making books in the first place because I wanted to make records of where I’ve been, and hopefully when someone looks at my books it might help them remember where they’ve been. That’s how I learned who I was, by listening to other people’s records and hearing where they’ve been. So I’ve tried to do the same thing.

Davy: Yeah, all of my favorite art involves that kind of deep personal expression, whether it’s Petey Pablo or Al Bunan or Ross McElwee. Okay, Andy, what’s the best show you ever did?

Andy: Well, I can remember the best moment. I was opening shows for my friend Cary Hudson. We were in Starkville, Mississippi, and it was a crowd of about 500 people. Most people were digging what I was doing, but others were yelling stuff like, you know, “Get off the fucking stage! We want music” At first I ignored it, but then I thought, I’ve got to figure out some way to use this. So I told them to get me a fucking drink. The whole place exploded with applause. But they kept screaming “Get the fuck off the stage! Give us some fucking music!” So I arm wrestled them at their table and won. That was my best moment ever.
— Davy Rothbart, Ann Arbor Paper (2/25/04)
In his ballad “Thunder Road,” Bruce Springsteen cries, “Well I got this guitar and I learned how to make it talk.” Well, Brooklyn-based artist Andy Friedman can’t play the guitar, but he has found a way to make his art talk. “I was born and raised on rock and roll,” says Friedman. “I loved Bruce Springsteen, Jackson Browne, and Billy Joel. I realized I wanted to perform my art, but I’m not a musician.” Friedman paints. He draws, he photographs, and he tours. He follows his art around the country, presenting himself along with his pieces in performances modeled after his blues and rock heroes. Imagine Kandinsky on MTV’s “Unplugged” or Warhol doing stand-up—this ain’t no artist’s lecture, this is “watching a person unfold in their own way before your eyes,” he says.

As an academically trained oil painter, Friedman’s transition to photography came naturally. He spent over two years on the same painting titled “The Pilot Light” at The Rhode Island School of Design (and, by the way, didn’t even finish it by the time he left) and used to believe tha he wasn’t worth anything as an artist if he wasn’t making oil paintings. He aspired to paint like Ingres and Velezquez nonetheless, artists who would spend weeks, months, and even years on a work. But working full time in order to make a living didn’t allow much time for that kind of painting, so rather than abandoning his art completely, he decided to revise his approach.

“I had a job and decided it was time to be a brave artist,” he explains. “I had the Polaroid period like Picasso had his blue one.”

Mostly he uses his art to “figure out his relationship with the world,” he says. In doing so, he hopes to be thought-provoking and inspiring, not merely unconventional. Art for art’s sake certainly has its place, but not in Friedman’s work.
— Debbie Michaud, Flagpole (Athens, GA) 1/14/04
Back in art school, it seemed like every artist was a frustrated poet, and every frustrated poet had his or her own self-published post-“Howl” pamphlets for your perusal. A nice thought, but they were never any good. For the past two years, Brooklyn-based artist and would-be musician Andy Friedman has been touring the country with an art-poetry performance that elevates the genre to a level it rarely sees. Friedman’s subject is the blues and all that it signifies, but he trades the guitar for a slide projector radiating Americana and a cache of ext ended, esoteric monologues.
— Natalie Haddad, Real Detroit Weekly (1/17/04)
Slideshows often connote dread, be it Aunt Selma’s trip to the Grand Canyon or Grandma’s Elderhostel retreat. Andy Friedman’s performance tonight at the Evening Muse creates a whole new dimension to slideshows that is, well, actually pretty damn cool. Known as the “Slideshow Poet,” Friedman’s performance breaks the mold for visual artists.
— Creative Loafing, 1/21/04
Andy Friedman certainly looks the part. Sitting atop his hulking 28-year-old frame is a disheveled mop of unwashed, road-trip hair, covered ever so slightly by an off-kilter Harley-Davidson baseball cap. A darkening shadow of a beard graces his face and his arms burst forth from his sleeveless tee.

Friedman has superbly achieved the classic appearance of the touring musician — that fine line between costume and apathetic coolness that clearly sets them apart from the rest of us mere mortals. By the time he gets deep enough into his set to start keeping time with his foot, the fact the he has no actual musical instrument goes almost unnoticed.

In fact, that Friedman is wielding a slide projector remote instead of a guitar and just talking instead of singing hardly matters at all. Everyone in attendance this night in tiny Montevallo, Alabama, seems awed by what they are witnessing. It’s like they haven’t seen a slideshow before. And truth be told, they haven’t seen one like this.

Friedman hesitates to call it a slide show at all. On this particular night before the show, he finds himself in the far too familiar act of confronting the club owner for running off potential audience members.

“Some folks came up and asked what was up and he told ‘em it was a slide show. They left,” Friedman says as he hunches over the table. “I told him not to say that. Tell ‘em it’s a country-blues show.”

Friedman says that generally the first thing he does when he gets to a club is to tell the bartenders or club owners or whoever may answer the phone what to tell prospective patrons. Slide show doesn’t make it on that list.

Country-blues performer is what Friedman likes to call himself. And save for the obvious lack of guitar and harmonicas and singing, he’s not far off. He has tapped into the mindset, the ideology, the intensity, and the spirit of what he calls “the art of people who have the courage to use what they’ve got.” He is able to take what his is quite wonderful at, photography and drawing, and apply the sort of emotion tht the blues evokes.

He calls the images songs. He calls his collections, his books, albums. His latest is designed to look like a record even down to the little trademark that rests at the top of the cover and says “Saddle Stitched” where a record would say “Stereo.” You half expect there to be that annoying sticker seal that makes getting into CD’s impossible. Again he’s not too far off. Perhaps the best explanation comes by way of a quote from Big Bill Broonzy found in the front of his first book, “Drawings & Other Failures,” “I don’t care who plays or sings them, if they sing their way or my way.”

“Done up my way.” Friedman is constantly adding this qualifying statement to his version of more traditional songs. He has made a living taking a traditional or classic lyric and setting one of his sketches or Polaroids to it. In his latest book, “Future Blues,” he takes Jesse Fuller’s “Morning Blues” and sets it to a snapshot of an open apartment window, the light pouring in from outside. In his first book an inspiring pencil drawing takes on a lyric from John Hurts “Payday.” Think cover songs.

“It just works,” Friedman says by way of phone before the show, and he’s right. Somehow it all comes together. For some reason we have come to accept all the intangibles that go along with music. We don’t ask any questions if we don’t understand it, we just take it for what it is. But take away the guitars and we feel we need to explain it. We fight to make it fit. For Andy Friedman, there is no need. It just works.
— Chase Farmer, Oxford Town (Oxford, MS) 6/19/03

Andy Friedman and Paul Curreri, 2003

Photo: Alex Johnston

Why is it that every time an artist takes to the road with a country-blues-inspired slideshow-and-storytelling tour, people act like there’s something special about it?

If I didn’t know any better, I’d think the whole world had forgotten about the original artist-storyteller, the great John Banvard, that titan of American art, the richest and most famous artist on the planet for a solid two decades in the second half of the nineteenth century.

But let’s move on.

Andy Friedman, who appears at Gravity Lounge this Saturday, can draw like an angel. Or, as he says, “like Ingres, if he listened to Skip James and drank Thunderbird.” He studied at The Rhode Island School of Design. He once spent two years on a single oil painting. He’s a regular contributer of art to The New Yorker.

Not necessarily the guy you’d expect to find telling stories in a back-country bars.

Since March 2002, though, that’s just what he’s done. Friedman has been all across America delivering a rambling, partially improvised monologue accompanying slide projections of his recent artwork; mostly Polaroids taken through car windows.

Friedman may refer to his works as “tracks” and his books as “albums.” The captions that accompany his images may consist of stolen blues lyrics. It’s true he named the company he founded to publish his first book City Salvage Records. But to call him a frustrated musician would miss the point.

This is a man who talks about Ingres and Thunderbird in the same breath. His new book offers his own version of Picasso’s “Les Desmoiselles D’Avignon.” He’s as serious about the visual as a visual artist can be. He wants something in addition, though, something the conventional visual art world can’t give: the visceral connection with an audience that’s the lifeblood of stage actors, stand-up comedians, and, well, musicians.

Whether Friedman knows it or not, he’s right in line with old John Banvard, the man who painted a three-mile long scrolling canvas of the Mississippi River and toured the world, delivering a rambling, partially improvised monologue while showing his work.

I’m all for Friedman making millions, as Blanvard did. I’m all for the current Queen of England liking Friedman as much as Queen Victoria liked Banvard. I just hope Friedman doesn’t wind up the way Banvard did: in a pauper’s grave in North Dakota.

On the other hand, for a guy who loves the blues that much, it might be just the thing.
— Stephen Boykewich, The Hook (Charlottesville, VA) 9/18/03

Drawings & Other Failures, 2001 (City Salvage Records)

Lots of people think of songs in terms of emotional blocks of color or even a filmic rush of images. Andy Friedman goes all the way, treating his stark pencil drawings and Polaroids as songs in and of themselves. His book, “Drawings & Other Failures,” released through his own City Salvage Records, contains several of his images, in which he sees all the emotional play that an abstract country-blues song might offer. For this performance, he’ll show the images and guide you into the world contained in each; for songs without music, they sound pretty cool.
— Time Out New York, 1/23/03

"Believe I'll Settle Down"

pencil, 6 1/4" x 6"

from Drawings & Other Failures

Friedman’s Beat-renaissance-meets-Walt Whitman approach to divulging personal moments with lovers and landscapes reveal him as a “ramblin’ man romantic” type. “Believe I’ll Settle Down,” a soft pencil portrait of his girlfriend sleeping, takes a voyeuristic image and illuminates it through the intimate poetry of his mind’s eye.
— Jennifer Dauphiniais, New Haven Advocate (1/16/03)

Andy Friedman and Paul Curreri, 2002

Photo: Gus Powell

No one embodies the adjective “multimedia” like Andy Friedman. The 27-year-old artist is touring along with blues guitarist Paul Curreri to promote “Drawings & Other Failures,” his debut book of poetry, pencil drawings, and paintings, for which Friedman has developed a live show. According to Friedman, the double-bill seeks to explore “a new relationship between artist, art, and viewer and a new way of tapping into the country-blues.” The two perform independently, but th marriage of art and music on one stage for one night presents each medium with a new window for expression. So how does Friedman go about turning his little volume into a concert? I have no idea, but I’m dying to find out.
— Lauren Howard, Louisville Eccentric Observer (10/2/02)

"Daphne (Fourth of July)"

pencil, 8" x 12"

from Drawings & Other Failures

Andy Friedman remembers being seven-years-old and skipping soccer practice to go behind the school and do something that he thought was very “tough” by the sheer fact that he had the guts, and the gumption to do it. He drew flowers.

Now, the twenty-seven-year-old Brooklyn native is lookiing to do something else that will buck the system a bit. He wants to revolutionize the way we relate to visual art by making it an integral part of the mainstream conciousness again. He wants to take art out of galleries and heavy coffee table books and put it back into the hands of the people. He wants you to reach for an artist’s “record” the same way you reach for a CD to put in your CD player.

Most of us know the feeling: it’s 3AM, you’ve had your heart broken, and nothing seems to ease the pain. Then you hear a song that says everything you are experiencing more eloquently and tenderly that you thought possible, so you listen again and again.

Friedman wants to arouse the same sort of connectedness with visual art. He believes that art should be accessible, that it should be personal, and that it should comfort you just as music does.

“Regular art books are beautiful, but they aren’t affordable to most,” Friedman says. “The idea would be to find a more affordable standard. You can pull it out of your pocket while you’re on the train—most art books are like box sets, and box sets stay in the living room.”

In order to introduce his idea to the world, Friedman has started City Salvage Records, and he has produced his first two projects: a traditional album by country-blues musician Paul Curreri, and his own “record:” a small book of his compositions made up of polaroids, drawings, and words—complete with liner notes and album cover—he has embarked on a tour with Curreri to support the venture.

Although the tour began in March of this year, it has been in the making for fifteen years.

As a child, Friedman wanted to paint like Norman Rockwell. In high school, Friedman was selected to attend an art school where he became obsessed with drawing like the old masters. Then he attended an arts college, where he became obsessed with painting like them—so much so, that he worked on one oil painting for most of his time as a student until he got it perfect.

“The pursuit is what it’s all about for me,” Friedman says. “I don’t place much value in the art object.”

The subject of many of Friedman’s works in his first record, “Drawings & Other Failures” is longing. It is the spaces in between full and empty. It is reconsiling the desire to have it all and the wonderful ache of hunger. The pleasure that can be found in realizing that wanting doesn’t have to be a bad experience, that spaces leave room to breathe, room to reflect, room to be grateful for the substance of our lives. His Polaroids and sketches speak to the persistant tension between the need to move forward and the desire to look back.

Friedman is currently working to get more people to understand the concept of the artist’s “record.”

“I want other artists to do this, too,” he explains. For now, he’ll have to keep blazing the trail on his own.
— Cara Hopkins, Colorado Daily (9/24/02)

Andy Friedman, Campbell's Music Hall (Chester, SC) 2002

Photo: Gus Powell

Andy Friedman was determined to put out a record, and he wouldn’t let a little thing like the fact that he doesn’t sing, play an instrument, or write songs stand in his way. To the untutored eye, “Drawings & Other Failures” (City Salvage Records) looks like what might be called “a book,” but no, sir—the collection of sketches, photographs, and a lengthy prose poem (titled, of course, “Drawings”) is billed as a record, and far be it from us to argue. Friedman, who also draws New Yorker cartoons as “Larry Hat,” is doing his best to complete the illusion by taking “Drawings & Other Failures” on tour, swapping sets with country-blues artist Paul Curreri, whose album, “From Long Gones To Hawkmoth,” is also released by Friedman’s City Salvage.
— Sam Adams, Philadlephia City Paper (6/20/02)
He’s the only artist we know who publishes a book, then has the nerve to call the book an album. Do we have a frustrated musician on our hands? Most definitely. His book, “Drawings & Other Failures,” is a collection of Polaroids, pencil drawings, and one very long poem. “Think of it as a record album for a visual artist,” he says. There’s even a track listing of his “songs” at the beginning of the book. Will someone please teach this man to play guitar?
— Christopher Muther, The Boston Globe (5/8/02)

"So Long Sunshine (Done What I Can Do)"

charcoal, 9" x 13"

from Drawings & Other Failures

The day has been long and your mind is moving in a million different directions. The roar of the cars surrounding you creates a cacophony that only serves to further jar your nerves. You long for a sense of peace, perhaps only to be found in the comfort of your favorite song, a poem or an image. It is easy to open a book or hit play on your CD player, but how do you access your favorite piece of artwork when sitting in rush hour traffic?

Andy Friedman believes that art should be something that you can pull out of your jacket pocket. Unfortuntately, for most of us, art exists only on gallery walls or in the books gathering dust on our coffee table. Friedman, a Brooklyn-based artist and New Yorker magazine art contributor, hopes to change this with the release of his first book, “Drawings & Other Failures.” Published by Friedman’s own City Salvage Records, the book is a collection of pencil drawings, Polaroids, and a long poem bound in a pocket-friendly size.

Friedman’s pencil drawings are subtle and hauntingly delicate, so much so that it is difficult to differentiate photographs from drawings. Dubbed a “break-up book,” there is an unmistakable sense of meloncholy—empty diners, bare trees, former girlfriends—echoing through “Drawings & Other Failures.” However, this sense of loss is countered with an air of defiance and survival and a slow, very personal progression towards hope.
— Sarah Jackson, CVille Weekly (Charlottesville, VA) 4/23/02

Chicago Reader (3/6/02)