It's an effortless success, from the opener, Ruby, big on melody and plaintive harmonies, to the dream-like Bells of Harlem, moving river-slow to a brushed snare and ending this quite terrific record with a meandering coda of wistful strings.
The restless vibe to this ramshackle collection suggests Rawlings’ greatest trait is his wanderlust. It’s allowed him to work closely with a range of different artists in the past, and it makes A Friend of a Friend a spirited affair.
Anyone who ever felt that David Rawlings hid his light under Gillian Welch's bushel-never getting the full credit he merited as her partner and accomplice--will greet his first solo album with a lusty cheer. [Dec 2009, p. 101]
while he doesn't exactly adopt an in-your-face approach to the leading-man role, preferring to become part of the powerful collective he's assembled, Rawlings proves himself fully capable of taking the reins and leading this horse wherever he wants it to go.