Mia Friedman explores folk on a spectrum. “Little Devils,” her newest release on friendshiptapes, fills ten tracks with a mix of experimental vocal dubbing and straight Americana. This is an album of beautiful melodies with dark, silly detours. One that doesn’t shy away from traditional folk, but is free enough to include songs that only count as folk in the sense that something gets plucked.
Headphones are required for most of this album. There’s nothing more satisfying than the feeling of rising goosebumps from a chorus of voices. In songs like “Now That I’m Home” Friedman sings from every direction at every pitch; sometimes creating harmonies and at other times creating collisions in weird and wonderful ways. Fiddle is Friedman’s main instrument, but her ambient vocals and clever lyrics are what make you listen again and again.
“Monsanto” is a modern protest song that ditches the experiments and lets the folk run free. Cute and depressing all at once, each verse is an endearing thank you to the bacteria, fungus, microbes, clovers and all that good stuff feeding planet Earth, but as the chorus comes in we’re reminded there’s an agriculture giant dumping poison in the water. “Monsanto you’re spraying away / And watch as the soil life decays / You sell it oh so sweetly / And package it so neatly. / Well what we were given cannot breathe. /There won’t be any reprieve.” Sigh. It’s a song with a message, and the message is we suck.
Title track and album closer “Little Devils” is Friedman’s take on a traditional folk ballad. Jean Ritchie gave the song a feminist update for the 20th century. It’s this version that Friedman applies some subtle dubs and fiddle to. Not to read too much into it, but a song about a woman too nasty to be kept at bay by Satan himself is primo 2018; after all, “women are so much better than men.”
If you like what you hear check out Mia Friedman’s other sonic creations as half of the folk duo Ari & Mia with her sister Ari Friedman, with Andy Allen as Hollow Deck, and her band Creative Healing. Other solo work and collaborations found at friendshiptapes.