Plastic Crimewave, who booked '60s folkie Ruthann Friedman to play his fourth annual Million Tongues Festival, bubbles with excitement when discussing Ruthann trivia. She recorded a single with Van Dyke Parks, dated Zappa, had an opportunity to join the Jefferson Airplane and (in her only claim to genuine fame, and likely to a degree of financial comfort) penned the Billboard chart-topper "Windy" for her friends the Association.
But the pleasures of listening to her sole LP, the late-'60s masterpiece Constant Companion (reissued last year on Water Records), and its belated supplement (a recent collection of unissued gems, Hurried Life: Lost Recordings 1965-71) have little to do with trivia. At her best Friedman presents spare, almost naked folk music, but its seductiveness lies in the complex melodies and jazzy tendencies that push the boundaries of acoustic-guitar music far beyond the coffeehouse. The recordings (particularly the unadorned sketches on Hurried Life, which includes her own charming take on "Windy") reveal a soulful voice that is lovely but imperfect, the kind of instrument one would expect to improve with time's ravages.