The ballad of Rick & Andy
by David Alexander Nahmod
Rick Libert and Andy Buck have a quality we see very little of these days: integrity. They live their truths, they cannot be bought. Rick and Andy are ex-lovers, best friends, and one of the finest folk-singing duos I've ever heard.
One month ago, I had never heard of Rick & Andy. On a day that I can only call fateful, I found them making a recent appearance on Gay USA, a public affairs show carried by the exclusive Dish Network channel, Free Speech TV.
As a child of the 1960s, I grew up listening to the beautiful, sad, angry cries of people like Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Judy Collins, Peter Paul & Mary, and many others like them. In the 60s, their heartfelt songs of love, peace and protest played to a huge audience weary of an unjustified war that would not end. But as the 60s segued into the 70s and 80s, Americans became increasingly self-centered and shallow. As the years passed, pop music reflected this. In the age of Britney, music, like our country, had lost its soul.
AIDS and the continued assault on our rights kept the queer community from straying too far down that shallow path. In the 70s, we saw Harvey Milk, our first political leader, murdered. In the 80s and 90s, we watched our friends die. In the new millennium, we are told that our love doesn't count. And now, our country is once again trapped in an unjustifiable war that seemingly has no end. We in the queer community cannot afford to sell our souls.
The voices of Rick & Andy harken back to earlier days of protest, but with a decidedly queer sensibility. They're two simple but sweet guys, often accompanied by nothing more than an acoustic guitar. They are low-key, quiet singers, but their harmonies carry a loud message.
Andy has been singing in church choirs since age eight. He was trained to be a singer. Rick, on the other had, had no training or experience, and had never sung before an audience before he and Andy became an onstage duo.
"We have this Fleetwood Mac thing," says Andy. "We sing love songs to each other, but not really to each other. We're gloriously un-hip!"
For the past 11 years, they have sung in small clubs and coffeehouses in the New York City area, as well as before various LGBT groups, including Metropolitan Community Church, where both are members. Andy is the high tenor, while Rick has the soulful folk voice.
They do not make a living from their music. By day, Andy is an editor, and Rick, an attorney. But the music is the work that matters most to them.
Their musical influences are the great folk artists that pre-date the Vietnam era: Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, and Peter, Paul & Mary remain their all-time idols. It was listening to the Weavers and Seeger's albums in Andy's basement that inspired them to take their act on the road.
Rick, who has taken classes in music theory, writes much of their original material, though they also perform covers and traditional ballads.
"I get inspired to write when I'm pissed off," says Rick, with a laugh. "Then I spew out some angry lyrics."
One such example is "Family Values," a song featured on Going Places, the duo's debut CD. The song beautifully captures the hypocrisy of the Religious Right's campaign to preserve America's "morality." But the two can also be funny and whimsical, as on the disc's second track, "Waltzing with Bears," a humorous take on the leather-daddy scene. At least, that was my interpretation of the song.
The CD's 15 tracks are simple but powerful. Rick & Andy sing from their hearts about gay love, gay loss, gay life. One high point is "Cowboys Are Frequently Secretly Fond of Each Other." Willie Nelson recently recorded this song to cash in on the success of Brokeback Mountain, but Rick & Andy have been singing this little-known 25-year-old song for years. It's a wonderfully funny song that says a lot about gender identity and heterosexual elitism. The disc's final track is an encore, a live rendition of the song, and the guys had their audience laughing, cheering, and eating out of their hands.
The title track, "Going Places," is one of Rick's compositions, described as a gay anthem. It's a glorious ode to coming out and being true to who you are, of standing proud and not letting anyone beat you down. No matter which aspect of queer life you relate to, "Going Places" is a song that will raise your spirit to the sky.
One need only to listen to the plaintive voices of Rick & Andy, or to look into their eyes, to feel the sincerity and conviction that comes from deep within their souls. Their beautiful voices are a comfort and a thought-provoking look at the troubled times we live in.
Going Places is available at Tower Records and CDBaby.com. More info at www.geocities.com/rickandandy.