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World Music CD Reviews North American

Erik Friedlander

By Stacy Meyn
Published January 14, 2008

Block Ice & Propane: Taking Trips To America

Block ice and propane were Friedlander family summer camping trip essentials. So vivid were memories of traipsing across America in a tiny shell perched atop a ’66 Chevy pickup, that the now older and more comfortable Friedlander was compelled to release his road music, composed on cello. Those attuned to the Ry Cooder slide-guitar style á la Paris, Texas might have doubts, but Friedlander decided to bypass slide altogether in favor of plucking strings and alternative tunings. A naturally melancholy, contemplative instrument, the cello would have served perfectly played in the traditional manner, but he evokes banjo and guitar and a decidedly American sound. Harvesting a couple titles from Cormac McCarthy’s Western and post-apocalyptic books, and repeatedly acknowledging Harry Smith’s Anthology Of American Folk Music, Friedlander captures the essence of endless 10th-mile markers, a dodgy propane stove, and the ever-present odor of soggy food at fondly-visited campgrounds and national parks.