The finely etched hard luck stories of Freedy Johnston’s 1992 Can You Fly instantly established the New York-based singer/songwriter as an exceptionally talented lyricist and craftsman. The album – self-financed by the sale of his family’s Kansas farm – was named among the year’s best, drawing significant college radio airplay. Johnston signed to Elektra and made his major label debut in 1994 with This Perfect World, helmed by Butch Vig, the preeminent producer of the alternative era. As acclaimed as its predecessor, it included songs like the album-opening “Bad Reputation,” which garnered extensive alternative play across the nation.
It was three years before Johnston’s next album, 1997’s Never Home. Produced by Danny Kortchmar – an Elektra/Asylum veteran as session guitarist on classic works by Jackson Browne, Linda Ronstadt, Warren Zevon, Don Henley, and countless others – the album’s spontaneous roc ‘n’roll sound was, like its title, inspired by Johnston’s non-stop touring over the course of the ‘90s.
Blue Days, Black Nights, which followed in 1999, was a very different affair, a deep, dark, truthful song cycle that, as produced by T-Bone Burnett and Roger Moutenot, stands as Johnston’s sparest, most intimate release of the period. He returned to a more ebullient guitar-pop sound on his final Elektra release, 2001’s Right Between The Promises, even going so far as to include a cover of Edison Lighthouse’s bubblegum classic, “Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes)” alongside his own literate storytelling.
Johnston carries on today, recording new albums and performing regularly, universally acknowledged as one of the most accomplished songwriters of his generation.