When Larry Campbell, the GRAMMY-winning producer and longtime collaborator of Levon Helm, says he wants to collaborate – you listen. Just ask Roger Street Friedman, the award-winning, NY-based singer-songwriter, whose “autobiographical, cinematic, blunt, and honest” songwriting has been compared to James Taylor, Randy Newman, and Jackson Browne (The Aquarian). With the release of Rise, the songwriter’s third studio album produced by Campbell, Friedman has crafted nothing less than a true expression – a statement of purpose that resonates as a career milestone – thanks in part to a partnership with Campbell that far exceeded Friedman’s expectations.
“One thing I know now, after working with Larry on this album, is how important the producer is,” Friedman explains, “how important the process is, the vibe — having the right players, how every element has a place and how one thing could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back if you’re not careful. And most of all, how important it is to serve the song.”
Recorded at his home studio in Sea Cliff, NY, Rise features the type of honest, vulnerable songwriting that has won Friedman praise everywhere from USA Today to No Depression – reflective vignettes recalling the singer-songwriter tradition of Marc Cohn and Robbie Robertson, set to a blend of folk-rock, progressive Americana, and soulful R&B. Co-written with a number of Nashville based songwriters, the album’s 12 tracks feature stories so vivid that we feel genuinely inside their characters — whether it’s the Vietnam veteran “takin’ fire from Uncle Sam” upon his return, or the housewife questioning her life in “Over and Over.” There’s an honesty, immediacy, and urgency to Friedman’s singing throughout the album, while the song arrangements are fat-free blends of Americana genre-splicing, from the twang of “Last Train to Babylon” to the rocking punch of “Outcasts of Love,” the Celtic anthemics of the title track and the Jimmy Buffett ebullience of “Tough Crowd.”
Editor’s note: When Roger Street Friedman afforded us the opportunity to premiere 3 live videos from the upcoming release, we jumped at it. Originally, these premieres were to be accompanied by “tour diaries” from Friedman. We all know that with touring on hold, that couldn’t be possible. Instead, he’s offering “diaries” about his current experience as it relates to his music and album release.
As we continue to hunker down, now about 60 days in, and I sit down to write this diary entry, I find myself feeling a range of emotions on any given day; frustration, anger and sadness are prevalent for sure, but perhaps the most prevalent emotion is gratitude.
While our lives have been upended to some extent, we have not been directly affected by the virus. Friends have lost loved ones suddenly and unexpectedly and are grieving mightily… we have been spared this horror and I am grateful for the health of my wife and kids, extended family and friends. I’m also grateful for the technology that enables us to remain connected… I mean… Zoom! Who knew? I’m also grateful for honest leadership to the extent that it’s out there.
Now more than ever we need the unvarnished truth, not pie in the sky, feel good platitudes and wishful thinking. In this era of the demonization of the news media, which in my opinion is a deliberate political ploy designed to divide us, I am grateful to the news media and the fact checkers who are helping me to separate reality from fiction during this pandemic. Of course, I am grateful to the healthcare workers who are putting their lives on the line to help the sick and to the essential workers who are keeping the food supply, and other supplies moving for the rest of us! I’m also grateful for my fingers, my voice and my guitar and the technology to share my music from the comfort of my own home. And finally, I am forever grateful to my wife for her organized mind and her huge heart…. keeping us in food and supplies and nurturing our souls at the same time!
“The Strange Shape of Love” is the third single from Rise, released April 24 via Rock Ridge Music.
* Feature image photo credit: Drew Reynolds