Artist: Freedy Johnson
Here's a classic guitar-totin' troubadour from small-town Kansas who reinvented himself in NYC. You could however say that his real home is the road. Freedy Johnson sings of heartbreak, loneliness, regret, fleeting love, accidental circumstances... he documents the small and personal in an intimately accessible way, making his music ours. He composes mostly on steel string guitar and his voice - somewhat frail, hardly technically rigorous, is steeled with hard-won character. He uses it to great effect through honest emoting and staying unwaveringly true to the spirit of his songs. Sometimes he rocks out, but usually electric guitars are used only sparingly as colour accompaniment to the main act: that voice in tandem with his acoustic. As a live performer, Johnson is often alone on the stage, with just his voice and his fingers carrying the weight of each song. In his studio outings, the arrangements are always fleshed out masterfully - Johnston seems to know precisely how much to inject into a song before stepping respectfully back and moving on to the next inspiration.
Johnson, for me, has become a compelling original. His stuff has a way of slowly etching into your skin and getting into your bloodstream. In his lyrics he comes off as a humble giant with an uncanny knack for painting indelible pictures with an evocative blend of words and melodious chords - delving deeply into the emotional without stooping to sentimentality, nailing a story with graceful economy. He sings about loners without being a downer, and that's no mean feat - it’s more like he’s bearing witness to the vicissitudes and cruelties of this world, and of his own imperfections.
Responsible is from what many have called Johnson’s greatest album, 1992’s Can you Fly. I was introduced to him via 1987's Never Home, another worthy album to dive into. In a way, his discography reflects the unevenness of his career - but when Johnson is good, he shines.
Bonus link: Freedy Johnson doing a recent live version of Responsible in Cleveland.
Posted by Max MacDonald