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Freedy Johnston

Can You Fly Freedy Johnston

Freedy Johnston Album Reviews

Freedy Johnston seems destined to be remembered as a one hit wonder for 1994’s ‘Bad Reputation’, a critically acclaimed but commercially marginal figure. This semi-obscurity isn’t necessary surprising – in the overall scheme of things he’s not a major figure in rock history, but he’s a skilled craftsman dealing in minimalist, engaging songs. Johnston’s musical career got off to a slow start; living in the backwaters of Kansas, he bought his first guitar by mail order at sixteen then made a friend drive 35 miles so that he could buy a copy of Elvis Costello’s My Aim Is True. After dropping out of University and moving to New York, Johnston’s debut The Trouble Tree was released in 1990, when Johnston was already pushing 30.

While his debut is merely formative, Johnston evolved his style significantly for his terrific second album Can You Fly. His most notable feature is his extremely economical writing style – he’s often able to communicate a lot with very few words, and his lyrics paint oblique pictures, often of people on the fringes. Even if he’s been a little forgotten by the public as a whole, he certainly gained a following among significant musicians of the next decade – Okkervil River’s Will Sheff wrote an article on the impact that Freedy Johnston had on him:, while Death Cab For Cutie have covered ‘Bad Reputation’ live.

I’ve only covered his first six albums – he’s released further albums in 2010 and 2015, and I’d be interested in catching up with them sometime.

Ten Favourite Freedy Johnston Songs

One More Thing To Break
Bad Reputation
The Mortician’s Daughter
The Lucky One
Changed Your Mind
Down In Love
You Get Me Lost
Caught As You Look Away
This Perfect World

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Freedy Johnston The Trouble Tree

The Trouble Tree- Freedy Johnston

1990, 6/10. There’s a general aura of economy surrounding The Trouble Tree, a likeable false start to Johnston’s career.

Can You Fly Freedy Johnston

Can You Fly – Freedy Johnston

1992, 9.5/10. The opening line “Well I sold the dirt to feed the band” refers to Johnston’s decision to sell the family farm to finance his career.

This Perfect World Freedy Johnston

This Perfect World – Freedy Johnston

1994, 8/10. Johnston’s song writing is more developed and his character sketches more convincing.

Freedy Johnston Never Home

Never Home – Freedy Johnston

1997, 8/10. Johnston’s ability to communicate complex emotions and situations in a few well chosen phrases is remarkable.

Freedy Johnston Blue Days Black Nights

Blue Days, Black Nights – Freedy Johnston

1999, 8/10. With T-Bone Burnett in the production chair, Blue Days, Black Nights doesn’t sound much different from its predecessors.

Freedy Johnston Right Between The Promises

Right Between The Promises – Freedy Johnston

2001, 6.5/10. The stripped back Right Between The Promises feels tired.

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