Never Home is richer, with fuller arrangements and a more upfront sound, than This Perfect World, but at the same time Johnston’s song writing has reached new levels of economy and conciseness. That’s a compliment – Johnston’s ability to cut out all the flab from his songs, and to communicate complex emotions and situations in a few well chosen phrases, is remarkable, and songs that at first seem inconsequential can become ingratiating. The harder sound comes from producer and guitarist Danny Kortchmar, whose musical career goes right back to a stint as a James Taylor sideman in the early seventies, while the rhythm section of Tom Petty’s drummer Stan Lynch and Graham Maby complete the band.
Despite the minimalist approach, at least a couple of these songs sound like they should have been huge radio hits. ‘One More Thing To Break’ withholds its main hook to halfway through the song, and is propelled by an awesome Maby bassline, while ‘You Get Me Lost’ is lush, harmonised and radio ready. Elsewhere, it’s more of the same classy, low-key song writing from Johnston – ‘Western Sky’ is about a pilot’s son who refuses to fly, while ‘On The Way Out’ is a surprisingly abrasive opener.
With a couple of extremely memorable songs and a more produced, polished feel than before, there’s enough to make Never Home another strong entry in Johnston’s catalogue.