Listen to Gone Gone Gone - the title track from the new EP
If you were to drive down a narrow, winding street, in the funky little town of Sea Cliff, New York, you would never expect that there is a world class, state of the art, analog recording studio in the basement of the grey house with the basketball hoop at the end of the driveway.
That house belongs to Roger Street Friedman, and that studio in the basement is where he, along with his band and a whole host of special guests (including Amy Helm, Ari Hest and The Masterson’s) has just completed his new album, Open Road. In fact, there is a lot about Roger Street Friedman that you would not expect in a typical singer-songwriter.
Relocated from Brooklyn in 2012, Friedman has made a long circuitous journey, but he’s finally home, ensconced in the studio he dubs “The Playroom,” for its proximity to where his young son and daughter play in the basement of the house he shares with his wife and family.
Growing up the son of artistic parents, Friedman learned to play guitar at age 7, and learned about music from his two older brothers, who were heavy into blues and folk, and his father who would blast jazz standards and classical music on the family’s hi-fi on Saturday and Sunday mornings. After traveling a zig-zagging Open Road that took him across the country; first to the desert southwest, then to Colorado as a ski bum, then on to NYC for a stint in a touring band and an engineering position at a commercial recording studio, Roger chose a more traditional path and spent twenty years building and running a successful mannequin/display business. Working with some of the most creative designers in the world, he traveled the globe designing and producing displays for a long list of luxury retailers like Calvin Klein, The Gap and Macy's. Along the way he met and married the love of his life. It was only after the loss of his father and mother in 2004 and 2006 respectively, and the birth of his daughter in 2006, that he was struck by the realization that his passion and talent for writing, performing and recording songs had not gone away… nor had his muse. “It had been locked away in a forgotten place, like a keepsake you put into the back of a cabinet only to discover it years later looking as good as new… like a shiny old object.” Friedman says. Nine years ago he tapped into that passion once again, writing and performing in and around Brooklyn and discovering something precious that had been misplaced, but was now found and cherished more than ever.
In January of 2014, he teamed up with producer Felix McTeigue, the co-writer of Florida Georgia Line’s chart-topping “Anything Goes,” and Lori McKenna’s latest single “Wreck You,’ and released his debut album, The Waiting Sky, finally taking that “shiny old object” and polishing it for posterity, inspired by, among other things, a trip to see Levon Helm perform at The Barn in Woodstock, N.Y., before The Band drummer passed away. That album – featuring an impressive supporting cast including guitarist Larry Campbell (Bob Dylan, Levon Helm), Byron Isaacs (Lumineers, Levon Helm), Jason Crosby(Phil Lesh, Susan Tedeschi) and Tony Leone (Phil Lesh, Olabelle) -- garnered some impressive reviews, with No Depression’s John Apice declaring, “After swimming through a myriad of albums in recent weeks -- many of them excellent -- I came across an artist that sounds like he’s already been around for decades. It was the confidence in his voice, the maturity and polish. He was compelling and seasoned. I came to the music with the belief that this was Roger Street Friedman’s ‘new’ album and it is. I was surprised to learn his discography doesn't have several previous albums. It only has this one. How does someone run this musical race straight out of the gate with such clarity and focus?”
Other champions for The Waiting Sky included American Songwriter, Relix Magazine, MSN, The Alternate Route, Elmore Magazine and the New York Daily News, with the video for the title track premiering on CMT Edge, the animated “Time to Fly” video on USA Today and a “Life Is Hard” premiere on WXPN’s “Morning Download”. The disc was played nationally on AAA and Americana radio, spent some time on the roots charts and was championed by Fordham University station WFUV’s John Platt and Don McGee, who continue to play it on the air. Local gigs and some regional touring were interspersed with opening slots for the likes of Los Lobos and The Blind Boys of Alabama.
His latest effort, Open Road, is bold and adventurous, masterfully reflecting a sense of life as an unpredictable and wondrous journey that he strives to embrace fully in his dual roles as artist and family man. These roles inform and inspire his reborn career as a recording artist. “I’m gonna live my life/With all my might/Make the most of everyday… everyday” he sings, as if shouting it to the rafters.
The roots of Open Road are steeped in alt-country, folk, blues, R&B and singer-songwriters like Jackson Browne, Cat Stevens, Don Henley and Paul Simon. The 12 songs here contemplate the trials and tribulations of relationships (“Hideaway,” “Tomorrow”), memories of a childhood that no longer exists (“No Place Like Home”), being a father (“A Son Like You”), the loss of a parent (“Gentle Love of a Mother”), the perils of mass-migration (“Better Life”) and going all out to live your life to the fullest (“Shoot the Moon”).
Once again joining forces with McTeigue , the album also finds Friedman in the roles of recording engineer and co-producer. Roles that he embraces wholeheartedly. It was mixed by Paul Kolderie of Radiohead fame. Open Road includes contributions from Amy Helm(Levon Helm, Amy Helm, Olabelle), fellow Long Islander and multi-instrumentalist Jason Crosby (Phil Lesh, Susan Tedeschi), vocalist Fiona McBain(Olabelle), Singer/Songwriter Ari Hest, Antigone Rising’s Nini Camps, Rich Hinman (Sarah Borelis) and New West recording artists The Mastersons, as well as a songwriting cameo by NRBQ’s legendary Big Al Anderson (who co-penned “Hideaway” with Friedman and McTeigue), and some of the best horn players in the business, Jay Collins(Greg Alman), Mac Gollehon(David Bowie), and Baron Raymonde(Rod Stewart). The album slots nicely into both Americana and Triple A radio formats.
This time around McTeigue and Friedman worked with the touring band he formed after completing his first album, featuring Frank Ferrara, whom Roger calls “the best guitarist no one has ever heard of”, Jim Toscano on drums, Matt Schneider on bass and Concetta Abatte on fiddle and vocals. Being able to work things out with the band in his home without regard to the clock, Open Road has a comfortable and well-honed feeling that befits its homespun origins.
The tracks on Open Road range from the acoustic driven, four on the floor “Everyday”, with its gurgling B-3 organ, banjo and fiddles to the horn-punctuated jump blues of “Puffs of Smoke,” the straight ahead roots rock of “Shoot the Moon,” the neo-Americana cover of John Prine’s “Paradise,” which puts him solidly in the class of newer artists like Avett Brothers, Dawes and Mumford & Sons, The Band-like R&B/ gospel tinged sound of “Tidal Wave,” with its twist on end of days and time of reckoning metaphors that will bring on a “Brand New Day,” and the up tempo but poignant “Tomorrow,” about a particularly rough patch in a relationship that features a stunning duet performance with Amy Helm.
The metaphorical “Shoot the Moon” typical of Friedman’s method, and from which the album title is derived – is about his getting back to music -- placing himself in the driver’s seat of his car, stuck in traffic on the New Jersey Turnpike listening to Lucinda Williams on the radio, looking for some “sunshine on an open road,” happy to have the freedom to do what he loves. “I’ve only made it to Jersey, but at least I feel like I’m alive,” he sings. The track features another stellar vocal performance by Amy Helm.
In “Where Are You Tonight,” the protagonist sits in his backyard with a bourbon in his hand, gazing at the stars and wondering what it would feel like to be light years away from the woman he loves, in a song that evokes Tom Petty fronting the Eagles. And while it sounds contemporary, it also could have come out of Laurel Canyon in the ‘60s.
“I strive to tell stories, to make them as real and truthful as I can,” he said, reflecting that coming back to music later in life has made him appreciate it that much more “I write songs about about life, its fleeting nature, and how you’ve got to grab the bull by the horns and find your passion and do what you love,” he says, proving that art imitates life and vice versa.
There is something driving Roger Street Friedman, and it’s not money or fame. He writes, produces and plays music because he loves it, and wants to share that feeling with others.
With Open Road, Roger Street Friedman continues to prove good things happen to those who wait… and then seize the opportunity.
Gone Gone Gone
Acoustic EPAcoustic versions of previously released songs on "The Waiting Sky" – Roger presents an unadulterated, reworked version of the originals.
“We started listening to the tracks without the drums and some of the other overdubs that were done on “The Waiting Sky” and really loved the stripped down nature of them. So we decided to try a few alternate mixes. I wound up really digging the bare bones versions so we decided to release these as an EP.” – Roger
"Roger Street Friedman’s first album already has the persona, and he is accompanied by some well-known players in a band that is so in-tune to the richness and message of Roger’s songs, it’s as if they have played with him for years. Maybe they have." - No Depression John Apice - (May 2, 2014) - CLICK TO READ
Roger Street Friedman Seizes “The Waiting Sky” - CMT Edge - CLICK TO READ
"If you didn’t have soul going into this show, you surely had soul coming out of it. On Saturday, November 22, The Blind Boys of Alabama, with special guest, Roger Street Friedman, put on a show that will long be remembered." - CLICK TO READ