Freedy Johnston – Back On The Road To You
The title track opens this 10-cut release, Freedy’s 9th LP & it’s a mixed salad of traditions in the hands of a professional who’s not short on creativity. A few ounces of J.J. Cale, Buddy Miller & Steve Earle grace the set at times but those are just under the surface. The sound is good on Back On The Road To You as Johnston navigates with wit, humor, pathos, with love & friendship & memorable melodies that touch on nostalgia & vintage aromas.
But…all that said, you never know what you’re going to find in a potpourri of a Freedy Johnston album. This is not heavily steeped in the blues but has that rock n’ roll storytelling abundance nourished by the likes of Dion DiMucci, Garland Jeffries & Chuck E. Weiss. Just short of doo-wop sensibilities Johnston embellishes his recipes with guitar & percussion & emboldens it with tantalizing vocals.
He has commercial value on the 38-minute Back On The Road To You (Drops Sept 9-Forty Below Records) produced by Eric Corne. But Freedy (vocals-rhythm guitar-harmony) is far too good for standard radio/mainstream audiences. There’s a pub rock quality to Freedy’s showcase, as early as Brinsley Schwartz, Nick Lowe, Rockpile & Ian Gomm. That aside, his vocal tonality is still all-Americana & though there may be tints of Marshall Crenshaw here & there, it’s the storytelling Freedy that graces our ears that’s like no other.
Sans the doo-wop it’s almost as if he picked up the acoustic drive of The Students’ “Every Day of the Week” & turned it into a career by injecting modernization into an old genre & few noticed. As original as Freedy is it’s obvious his influences go back to a more innocent time. Almost all of Freedy’s songs have individuality.
The music isn’t of a brick & mortar construction, not a steel structure, or bluestone, or wood. But an aluminum siding or trailer up on blocks (“Darlin’”) type of enclosure. That kind of atmosphere with sophistication, not trash. We can make a home wherever we are attitude. We’ll make the rent but we gotta stop having babies type of logic.
I like it – it’s authentic. No star-spangled jackets, no stardust, no crystal glasses for the wine, just pull the cork (if there is a cork, it may be a twist-off) & take a snort. Sit back & enjoy the honeysuckle & diesel as you groove to a Johnston tune – because he keeps the old new again.
On board – Dusty Wakeman (bass), David Raven (drums/percussion), Doug Pettibone (lead guitar/steel guitar), Sasha Smith (keyboards), Wally Ingram (percussion), Stevie Blacke (strings-string arrangements) with harmony vocals by Aimee Mann, Susan Cowsill & Susanna Hoffs. Highlights – “Madeline’s Eyes,” “Tryin’ To Move On,” & “The I Really Miss Ya Blues”
B&W Image courtesy of Freedy’s website. CD @ http://www.freedyjohnston.com/