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Erik Friedlander: Nighthawks

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For all the devastation left in its wake, Hurricane Sandy fortunately didn’t leave New York City a total wasteland. But given the metropolis’ usual vibrant bustle, it certainly must have felt that way as residents abandoned their homes and power outages left the streets quiet and dark. That feeling is reflected on the second CD by cellist-composer Erik Friedlander’s Americana-tinged Bonebridge band, fronted by the unusual combination of Friedlander’s cello and Doug Wamble’s slide guitar.

The title of Nighthawks is a nod to Edward Hopper’s iconic image of urban loneliness, and much of the album shares that painting’s atmosphere of surreal solitude, residing in a concrete-paved badlands. It starts on a cheerier note, with the springy round-robin folk groove of “Sneaky Pete” and the down-home lilt of “Clockwork,” from which Wamble spins twangy acoustic filigrees. But it soon takes a turn for the moody on “Hopper’s Blue House,” which pairs Wamble’s high-lonesome slide playing with Friedlander’s howling cello lamentations.

The disc largely remains in the shadows from there, proceeding from the tense, on-edge “Carom” through the gritty roadhouse boogie of “Twenty-Six Gasoline Stations” to the harrowing title track, which evokes isolated voices in the night air, their sources lost just beyond the glow of the streetlights.

Throughout Friedlander continues to expand the expressive vocabulary of the cello, striking violent abstractions one moment and aping the earthy sound of a battered acoustic guitar the next, with the agility to coax the instrument back into its familiar silken beauty in an instant. Wamble lends the quartet a virtuosic drawl, while the contributions of bassist Trevor Dunn and drummer Michael Sarin are subtle but vital.

Originally Published