Even if you've never heard of Daniel Johnston, you've probably heard his songs. Take "Speeding Motorcycle," which has been indelibly covered by the Pastels and Yo La Tengo; Mary Lou Lord's version hyped Target on TV. Not bad work for a track recorded on a $59 tape machine by a guy who, shortly after writing it, was committed to an insane asylum as a result of his acute manic depression.
Long beloved by cognoscenti as a kind of musical idiot savant, armed with an intuitive sense of melody and poetry unmatched by most "professional" musicians, Johnston's been on a roll the last few years, helped along by meds and a few well-placed friends. Most recently, Sparklehorse frontman Mark Linkous helmed the recording of Johnston's latest, Fear Yourself, setting Johnston's songs in a star-showered context far removed from the utterly bare-bones sound of his homemade tapes. But Johnston's nakedly vivid vocals cut straight to the marrow -- and when he plays live (a rarity indeed) his songs feel so intimate, they make you blush. This may be your only chance to see a bona-fide legend in a club the size of your thumb, so take it -- but come prepared for both beauty and discomfort.