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CD Review: Freedy Johnston

Rain on the City (Bar None)

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Rain on the City is Freedy Johnston's first record of original material in eight years, and it's a welcome return. Johnston is best known for his enduring near-hit "Bad Reputation" from 1994's This Perfect World. But the rest of his output is nearly as fine. Simple but elegant tunefulness and his novelist's attention to detail punctuate his best work. Rain plays to Johnston's strengths throughout. The songs are close in scope and sound to 1997's Never Home. "Lonely Penny" and the smooth "The Devil Raises His Own" show off Johnston's melodic and lyrical gifts, and both feature his bell-clear tenor to fine effect. "Livin' Too Close to the Rio Grande" is a superb rootsy rocker, and "What You Cannot See, You Cannot Fight" fits in nicely with Johnston's established pattern of excellent album-closing tracks. There are moments when the songs may have benefited from the polish and heft provided by past producers like Butch Vig or T-Bone Burnett (especially the loping "Central Station"), but that's nitpicking. Better really, really late than never, Johnston effortlessly reclaims his spot as America's most underrated and under-appreciated singer-songwriter. — Chris Drabick

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