Andy Friedman To Deliver Laserbeams and Dreams
Produced by noted guitarist and producer David Goodrich (Chris Smither, Peter Mulvey), the album was recorded in Friedman's Brooklyn neighborhood and cut in 24 hours with one overdub and mixed in the studio.
Andy Friedman first hit the road as a self-described "Slideshow Poet" in 2002, leaving his day job as an office assistant in the Editorial Department at The New Yorker to accompany projections of his paintings, drawings, and Polaroids with readings of his poetry in dive bars and rock clubs around the nation.
Laserbeams and Dreams tackles themes of religion, aging, disillusionment, and family, but images of death prevail in all forms. The gospel dirge "Time for Church" is the album's opener, and finds Friedman renouncing religion in favor of drink, music, and art. "It's time for church/It's five o'clock," he sings. "Pour a drink/let the record play." Friedman's vocals boom with an echo recalling the classic Nashville Sound recorded by Chet Atkins at RCA in the late '50s and '60s. The lilting "Motel on the Lake" presents death as the crumbling façade of a once vibrant Catskill Mountain summer resort community more famously referred to as the Borscht Belt, which the singer now reports "whips the children." Goodrich brings haunting upright piano to "May I Rest When Death Approaches," a song based on a series of poems written by Friedman's father-in-law days before his passing. "Roll On, John Herald" is at once a tribute to the late John Herald — a founding member of the seminal late-'50s bluegrass trio the Greenbriar Boys, who died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in the summer of 2005 — and a humbling, dark portrayal of life as an obscure legend on the road. "When Vin played him on Idiot's Delight/I knew John Herald had died," growls Friedman, who befriended the singer when Herald invited the then "slideshow poet" to open a string of dates in 2003. In "Quiet Blues," recorded minutes after the ferocious "Roll On, John Herald," Friedman laments with newfound vocal sensitivity the death of peace and quiet in the digital age. "Hey, Command Z/bring the quiet blues back to me," he warbles. "Recording those two songs without a break was like a biathlon," says Friedman. Singer-songwriter Jen Chapin, who is married to Crump, lent the guitar played by her father — the late Harry Chapin — to Friedman for the recording of Laserbeams and Dreams.
It's not all death and despair for Friedman, who approaches these themes with the acerbic wit and dark humor of a New Yorker gag cartoon — a pastime with which the singer has found past success under the pseudonym Larry Hat. With "Going Home (Drifter's Blessing)," Friedman delivers an anthem for the little-known folksinger trying to make it out on the road, whose faith in himself is tested by long drives, missed family, and dismal turnouts, but can only wish the life on his children and theirs. In "Down by the Willow," the album's closer, Friedman is seduced by the serenity of life in the country but is "shackled and chained" to the gritty confines of the city, revisiting the famous car wash scene from the 1967 Paul Newman classic Cool Hand Luke.