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Ruthann Friedman – Walking Down the Streets of “Chinatown”

Ruthann Friedman
Light In The Attic

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Forty-four years after her last album (1970’s Constant Companion), Ruthann Friedman, author most notably of the Association’s 1967 smash hit “Windy,” returns here under the caring guidance of John Muller and a host of helpful friends/luminaries – Van Dyke Parks, Jackson Browne who loaned his Santa Monica studio, Molecules guitarist Aaron Robinson – for a thoughtful, sapient slice of West Coast folk. Lured out of retirement by reissues and appreciative tributes from the likes of Devendra Banhart, Friedman delivers a broad cloth of close-in acoustica along with a few full-band So Cal-soaked gems evoking the golden light of the 1970’s.

The intimate caper of “That’s What I Remember,” a mandolin-flavored memoir; the emotive postcard of the title track, Parks’ piano skirting dream alleyways, Friedman’s voice, undiminished by the years, sage with a straightforward eloquence; “The End”‘s quiet bass-deep strum of existential clarity, recognizing a sigh of hope in its own fatalism; all lay with a hard-won grace beside the larger ensemble pieces, including a harrowing take on Peggy Seeger’s “Springhill Mining Disaster,” a double-bassed, many-stringed (dobro, lap steel, banjo) red state visit (“Southern Comfortables”), all sass and pluck and deep-fried un-sentimentalism, and the lovely reflective paean to living in the here-right-now “All I Have” that may well be the album’s choicest cut.

Ruminative and unafraid, knowingly aware enough to know that mystery wins out, Chinatown‘s a wise record, a not unwelcome gift in these TMZ-ed times.