Ruby Friedman’s music turns new listeners into instant fans. Take Lucinda Williams, for instance: In the late summer of 2008, just a couple of months after the venerated singer-songwriter and multiple Grammy Award winner first heard Ruby at the Hyperion Tavern in Los Angeles’ Silver Lake district, Williams joined her for a number on stage at Hollywood’s Hotel Café.
Blessed with a bold, octave-leaping voice and a brace of rapturous radio-friendly songs, Ruby is poised to leap out of the pack. Her crackling live performances showcase a singer who has melded a panoply of diverse musical tributaries – Bessie Smith, Etta James, Patsy Cline, Whitney Houston, PJ Harvey – into a distinctive, unclassifiable, high-powered, utterly surprising style of her own.
She’s radio-active: During 2008-09, she graced the airwaves with a live performance on the late, lamented Indie 103.1, regular spins on Rodney Bingenheimer’s legendary KROQ show “Rodney on the ROQ,” and airplay from guest DJ Rosanna Arquette on Chris Douridas’ KCRW program “New Ground.” She has appeared on RocknRoll Television.com and cut a live session at ChessVolt Studios for the indie music site Luxury Wafers.
She has wowed audiences at the Hotel Café, the Mint, the Viper Room, Three Clubs, and the Echo in Los Angeles, and played three stomping shows during the 2009 South By Southwest Music Festival in Austin, Texas. The renowned audio equipment manufacturer Sennheiser, which sponsored one of her SXSW gigs, named her their “Unsigned Artist of the Month” for March 2009.
The titian-haired vocalist’s recent studio activity brought her together with some noted producers. Sessions with the team Beethoven – Alex Elena and Josh Valleau, known for their work with Grammy nominee Alice Smith and Little Jackie – yielded the hit-worthy tracks “Shooting Stars” (currently available on iTunes, and heard in NBC network promos for “America’s Got Talent”) and “Hang Around,” as well as a scorching cover of the Beatles’ “I Want You/She’s So Heavy.” Her original “Sex” was mixed by Mike Chapman (Blondie, the Knack, Pat Benatar).
Ruby has performed and recorded with some storied players: John Taylor (Duran Duran), Billy Zoom and DJ Bonebrake (X), Tony Gilkyson (Lone Justice, X), Gregg Sutton (Lone Justice), Michael Ward (Glen Campbell, the Wallflowers), Brian Head (John Doe, Dead Rock West), Bob Thiele, Jr., and many others.
The members of her band the Ruby Friedman Orchestra – all seasoned L.A. pros – include keyboardist Arlan Schierbaum, keyboardist for the seminal funk unit Mandrill; bassist Dorian Heartsong, a veteran of stints with Powerman 5000 and Everlast; guitarist Adam Zimmon, who has toured with country legend Glen Campbell and Latin star Shakira; trombonist Ulf Bjorlin, a classically trained player who also performs with Vaud and the Villains; and, on drums, producer Alex Elena, whose credits include touring and studio work with Avril Lavigne, Belinda Carlisle, and Bruce Dickinson.
Invariably, audience members at a Ruby Friedman Orchestra show are left hunting for superlatives to describe what they’ve just seen. We’ll give the last word to Lucinda Williams, who may have put it best: At the Hyperion Tavern, she turned to another spectator next to her at the bar and exclaimed, “I am f*cking blown away.”