Thirteen Unlucky Reasons to Love Freedy Johnston
“In the world of singer songwriters, Freedy is in his own league entirely,” recently noted one Mr. Iman Lababedi, saving me the trouble of writing an intro sentence. After more than two decades of recording, he’s established himself as a King of Heartbreak, The Melodic Marvel of Melancholy. Here are thirteen reasons to check him out.
1. “No Violins.” From his 1990 debut album The Trouble Tree, this is as much as a groove song as you’ll ever hear from Freedy. He wants her to leave without shedding any tears. Play that funky breakup, white boy.
2. “Wichita Lineman.” This may be heresy, but I prefer Freedy’s take on this Jimmy Webb classic to Glen Campbell’s 1968 pop hit. This Kinsley, Kansas boy felt the loneliness in the wide open plains. (I’ve been to Kinsley, Kansas. It makes my hometown of Rector, Arkansas look like Disneyland).
3. “Trying to Tell You I Don’t Know.” It would have not been possible to know from The Money Treethat Freedy had Can You Fly in him -one of the best albums of the 1990s or any other decade for that matter. In the opener, Freedy sells the house where he learned to walk, as his passion for his music outweighs the comfort of an inheritance. A truly remarkable song and performance.
4. “Tearing Down the Place.” This aorta ripper tells the tale of a painful breakup, comparing the end of a relationship to the destruction of a home. Imagine They Might Be Giants’ “They’ll Need a Crane” without irony.
5. “Mortician’s Daughter.” Freedy once told me that he was going to record another version of this one, not liking the production on Can You Fly. Dusty coffin lids, wilted flowers, and the bone yard fence on make an appearance in this fatally doomed romance.
6. “Bad Reputation.” Good reviews won’t pay the light bills and this Butch Vig production from the This Perfect World album was his biggest commercial push. This romantic obsession number about never getting over a break up (“Do you want me now? Do you want me now?”) crawled up to #54 on the pop charts. Match this with Joan Jett and you have the two best songs ever with the same title.
7. “Evie’s Tears.” Too sad for words, a tale about a girl that’s a victim of abuse. What’s her life like? She begs the moon to disappear.
8. “Two Lovers Stop.” One of his most indelible upbeat pop/rock melodies, tied to a suicide pact. Seasons don’t fear the reaper.
9. “On the Way Out.” A catchy, tough rocker about the five-finger discount. Shoplifters of the world unite! Nice production work from Danny Kortchmar, who played the role of Ronnie Pudding in This is Spinal Tap.
10. “You Get Me Lost.” A mid-tempo love song with lots of space, this is as straightforward as Freedy gets. He’s lost with her and he doesn’t care where he’s going.
11. “The Farthest Lights.” A stargazer loses his love. “In the eyes I know so well/Is a question and a spell/An astronomer all my life/I’ve never seen a light so pale.” He embraces the cosmos, but can’t fathom the interpersonal.
12. “Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes).” Expert songwriters aren’t lazy about cover songs and Freedy power pop punches this up with juicy guitar chords and enthusiastic singing. Bubblegum never tasted better.
13. “Don’t Fall in Love With a Lonely Girl.” From 2010’s Rain on the City, Freedy once again displays his understanding of classic pop songwriting. Sounds like Marshall Crenshaw having a writing session with Burt Bacharach and Hal David.
My apologies to “The Lucky One” and “He Wasn’t Murdered” and “Rain on the City” and…