Ruthann Friedman will forever be known as the woman who wrote one of the most beloved pop tunes of the Sixties generation. Her song, “Windy,” was recorded by her friends in The Association, and was a career-defining hit. A breezy uptempo number laden with polyphonic harmonies and a driving beat, the song is a pinnacle of sunshine pop and a shining example of all that was good about California pop production circa 1967.
The Association association would lead to a record deal with A&M Records, and Friedman worked on her debut album for well over a year and a half, often seeking help from friends and from some of LA’s finest studio musicians. Unfortunately, that deal fell through, and those tapes were locked away in the vaults, not surfacing until last year’s excellent Now Sounds compilation of those sessions, Windy: A Ruthann Friedman Songbook.
Her relationship with Warner Brothers would produce only one album. Recorded rather quickly in the summer of 1969, Constant Companion stands in stark contrast to the material she had previously recorded; instead of lush arrangements, Constant Companion is positively minimalist; just her, her guitar, and her powerful lyrical acumen. It’s not hard to understand why this record was revered several years ago in the “freak folk” movement—the songs here are occasionally otherworldly, deep in meaning, and the barebones accompaniment adds a darkness that’s undeniable. The joyous sunrise tribute to the day of “Morning Becomes You” sits nicely beside homages to her family in “Danny” and “Ginger,” while “Traveling Around” and “Off To See The World” are bold yet simple declarations of intent of a willful young artist.
That these songs are often deeply personal—songs about family members, falling out of love, and other day-to-day emotions—listening to Constant Companion feels like reading the diary of a very sensitive, private young woman. In its own way, that’s exactly what Constant Companion is—the lightning bug-in-a-jar capturing of emotions and feelings of a talented young woman.