In the scheme of things, Andy Friedman's musical career is relatively young. In 2002, after years as a professional cartoonist (most notably penning celebrity illustrations for the New Yorker), he began performing, but not as a musician the way most of us picture one. He took to the road with an act that involved live illustrated oral performances -- songs without music, as it were.
More recently, he's come into a more traditional setup, fronting a band called Andy Friedman and the Other Failures and recording his first full-length of gritty alt-country (or "art country," as he's prone to calling it). Taken Man is a collection of clever songs that take the arty and urbane elements that one might expect from a New Yorker illustrator, and mix them with a raw roadhouse sound that one might not.
Friedman, a Brooklyn native, bases much of his songwriting on a sense of unrest and dissatisfaction, tempered with a kind of storytelling that's reminiscent of the old country music from which he draws inspiration. "Guys Like Me Don't Get Grants" is clearly a New York artist's tongue-in-cheek update on the bluesy country of yore. "David Berman," on the other hand, is a clever retelling of how Friedman was once accused of biting the Silver Jews frontman's style (he'd never heard him before) and how he then met Berman and became a fan.
Friedman's introspection and plain-spoken songwriting might seem like a different side of the illustrator than we're used to seeing, but a closer look reveals that perhaps the two aren't so unrelated. His celebrity drawings, heavy on shading and exaggerated physical features, are often very real, just like his songwriting. If you're more familiar with his pen than his growl, you may want to get better acquainted -- he appears Wed., Feb. 27 at Thursday's in Bridgewater.
Andy Friedman. 9 p.m. Wed., Feb. 27. Thursday's, Wolf Lane, Bridgewater. $5. 724-728-2229
- New Yorker: Andy Friedman