Like many a talented musician, Freedy Johnston has had his share of career ups and downs. It wasn’t all that long ago that the singer-songwriter worked his way up in the NYC folk-pop scene, signed to a major label (Elektra) by the mid-1990s and collected a wheelbarrow full of rave reviews, including being crowned “Songwriter of the Year” by Rolling Stone magazine.
Since then, Johnston has weathered several re-locations (Austin, Nashville), a divorce, a temporary writer’s block with only two releases in the last decade (one being an all-covers album) and the return to Indie-Label Land (to Hoboken’s Bar/None Records, which released his classic “Can You Fly” back in 1995).
But listening to Johnston’s impassioned performance at Caffe Lena on Saturday night, you might never have guessed that any of that happened. Wearing a huge smile and playing an acoustic guitar, his well-crafted and poetic songs were propelled by his clear and articulate voice. Throughout two sets, Johnston’s songcraft and finger-picked notes revealed a brilliant understanding of dynamics and melody lines.
His first release of original music in eight years, “Rain On The City” is chock-full of original gems that beautifully capture the wide spectrum of the human condition. Highlights of his Lena performance included heart-felt renditions of “Don’t Fall in Love with a Lonely Girl” and “Lonely Penny,” both from the new album.
Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter Rebecca Pronsky – in tandem with electric guitarist Rich Bennett – warmed up the audience with her strong, five-song set that deftly bridged the gap between folk and country music.
Review and photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk