Freedy Johnston was born the same year I was—1961—in Bumfuck, Kansas. It’s actually a tiny town named Kinsley that has the odd distinction of being exactly the same distance from New York City and San Francisco.
He bought his first guitar at 16 via the U.S. Postal Service. A year later he had a friend drive him 35 miles to the closest record store, where he bought Elvis Costello’s first album My Aim is True. In 1992 he sold his farmland, which had been in his family for generations, to finance his second album.
Like Bob Dylan and Neil Young, Johnston has a very distinctive voice. I actually like his voice; his detailed songs wouldn’t work if they were sung by Tony Bennett. His fourth album This Perfect World ('94) and his fifth album Never Home ('97) are both very good. But Johnston’s masterpiece is his second album Can You Fly ('92), which opens up with the song “Trying to Tell You I Don’t Know, ” which tells the story of selling the farm to buy the band.
Although Can You Fly is his best album, his best song is “On the Way Out” from the album Never Home. I even have the song on my “death list.” When I die, there will be no creepy viewing; cremation and a party with my special soundtrack. At least that’s how I want it.
To be fair to Johnston, he may have other great albums; I haven’t heard all 11 of them.