I was running down my usual jogging route when Freedy Johnston’s “Anyone” came on the playlist from his 2001 release, Right Between the Promises. I was struck by the enduring freshness of a formula Johnston has consistently utilized since his breakthrough albums, 1992’s Can You Fly and 1994’s Perfect World, particularly on what probably amounts to his most famous quartet of songs: “Tearing Down This Place,” “The Lucky One,” “Bad Reputation,” and “This Perfect World.” Combining Nick Lowe pop hooks with the lyrical ennui of Leonard Cohen, he’s everybody’s favourite melodic sad sack. Yet like so many gifted troubadours (Randy Newman, Elvis Costello, John Hiatt, etc.) his initial brush with stardom appeared to stall with the new millennium. But you can’t blame that on the music. Albums of new material in 2001, 2010 and 2015 were as good as anything he’d ever released – maybe better!
Right Between the Promises makes the case with such killer, single-oriented cuts as “Broken Mirror” and “Anyone,” or the more American songbook feel of “Radio for Heartache” and “Save Yourself, City Girl.” It was a long nine years for a follow up but 2010’s Rain on the City was worth it, chock full of strong material like the toe-tapping “It’s Gonna Come Back to You” or the more western rock and roll feel of “Living Too Close to Rio Grande.” There’s some truly classic Freedy songwriting here on tracks like “Don’t Fall in Love with a Pretty Girl,” “Venus is her Name,” and “The Other Side of Love.” Five years later he was back with another fabulous album, Neon Repairman. Opening cut “Baby, Baby Come Home” is on par with any of Johnston’s great songs for it’s aching lyric content and subtle hooks while the rest of album showcases his unique observational talents on tracks like “TV in My Arms,” “By the Broke Streetlight,” and “Sentimental Heart.”
Broken MirrorIt’s Gonna Come Back to YouLiving Too Close to the Rio GrandeBaby, Baby Come Home
I, for one, would appreciate more regular installments of Freedy Johnston. Maybe it’s a money thing? Duh. Let’s get the tapes rolling on a new record by buying up all the old ones. Look here to get started.