Saturday, March 3, 2007

Classic Pick: -->Freedy Johnston - Never Home (1997)

"When the roof fell in
He lit up again."
Freedy Johnston

When I learned that Freedy Johnston was performing in Wichita several months ago, (more about that later), I was reminded of how excited I was when I discovered his music for the first time. And then thumbing through a Rolling Stone several years ago, I was surprised to learn that Freedy was named “Best Songwriter of 1994” in the magazine's annual critics' poll. (He finished ahead of Kurt Cobain that year).

And best of all...he was a New Yorker, with Kansas roots. I couldn’t help wondering why our local radio stations in Wichita were not giving him some air time? I mean, here was one of our homeboys receiving top-props from respected music critics, and he gets no play here. None!

Freedy Johnston‘s “Never Home” was released in 1997 and was my first introduction to his great music and what turned me into a lifelong fan. A lost gem and an under-promoted classic, if ever there was one. A musical storyteller, Freedy serves up a Canterbury Tale of characters in this collection of eleven songs.

Freedy Johnston & me @ the Wichita Orpheum 2006

“You get what you take anyway“ sings Freedy on the rocking opening track “On The Way Out”, as he delves into the mind of a shoplifter. We also meet an arsonist enjoying his work in “Gone To See The Fire” as he “just sits there smoking and watching the flames.“

FJ introduces us to yet more characters as he observes, “He wasn’t murdered by love or loneliness, he walked out on his own” a tale about a suicide victim on the haunting “He Wasn’t Murdered.” Go back and read that verse again. That's clever stuff.

And then we meet a sympathetic guy who’s been abducted by aliens as Freedy complains, “If I don’t talk to my self, who am I gonna tell” (“Something’s Out There”). The aching discovery of an unexpected pregnancy in the brutally honest “If It’s True” rings righteous as the young man worries “we couldn’t stay together. I’m broke and so are you.”

Freedy‘s voice is a cross between Jackson Browne and Paul McCartney (without a British accent) and is in fine form on the tender “Western Skies”, a tale about a guy afraid of flying and the gorgeous love song “You Get Me Lost”. There is not a weak track on this album. And his writing is consistently strong throughout his entire recording catalog. This is a good place to start.

Now, about Freedy Johnston performing in Wichita. Freedy has always been known for readily giving of his time for worthy causes. Last April 2006, the Wichita Orpheum held a benefit concert for musician Kirk Rundstrom (a beloved and very respected musician and songwriter who just recently lost his battle with cancer) that featured Freedy Johnston, along with other musicians familiar with Kirk's work. It was a joyous, yet bittersweet event. With special thanks to Freedy...the place was packed. The family is still welcoming all donations.

Do not let Freedy Johnston's Never Home be left out of your musical collection. It is a wonderful album. Highly recommended. (1st appear. Vantage/Newman U.)

Casey Chambers

Freedy Johnston-->"Gone To See The Fire" off Never Home (1997) (MUST OWN)

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