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Blue Days Black Nights

music reviewmusic review  out of 4 Music Review: Blue Days Black Nights

Artist: Freedy Johnston
Genre: Rock/Pop
Release Date: July 1999

Review by LarryG
2½ stars out of 4

Blue Days, Black Nights is an interesting, subdued, adult work. In the past decade, Johnston has established himself as one of the best songwriters around. He's shown a real gift for creating real, detailed lyrical scenes. He and his characters have often seemed troubled or haunted by their past but Johnston has been able to find a good balance by keeping the music light and projecting a certain cockiness. On Blue Days, Black Nights, Johnston is more resigned, both musically and lyrically. Johnston no longer has the youthful ability to laugh off misfortune. The record has a good, thoughtful feel. The songs are reflective and personal. Blue Days, Black Nights is nearly a theme record about heartache; Johnston is achingly honest about his pain. Many of the songs are about dealing with a breakup. Johnston creates indelible images, often reflecting a dying or lost relationship . In The Farthest Lights, Johnston's unshowy vocals and subtle strings create an introspective mood. Johnston draws a vivid picture of a couple feeling a growing distance, his lover looking out the window without expression, removed from the crowd, as Johnston and his friends mingle below. On While I Wait For You, even though his lover's return seems unlikely, Johnston puts his life on hold, waiting for her. Depending on the Night is about a guy totally devastated by a breakup, unable to get her voice out of his head, barely making it through the day, winding up face up on the floor. On Pretend It's Summer, he deals with his loss by quietly thinking of happier times. In Changed Your Mind Freedy feels sympathy for a guy his ex dumped like she dumped Freedy.

The music of Blue Days, Black Nights is low key and has a simple beauty. T. Bone Burnette's production reflects the songs' austere mood. Jim Keltner's often lighty brushed drumming is subtle and excellent throughout. Johnston's vocals are real and unadorned. The arrangements are consistently simple, usually based on a quiet acoustic guitar. The most boisterous addition in some songs is a gentle piano. There's not a bad song in the bunch but the record can get a little draggy. If you're looking for a record to get you charged up, look elsewhere. There's not a hard driving rocker to be found. Even the slightly more upbeat songs like Underwater Life are pretty subdued. But Johnston seems comfortable with the sad, austere presentation. Johnston's last album, Never Home was a good record with some very good writing but it sometimes seemed a little confused about whether it wanted to be a personal or commercial record. Blue Days, Black Nights is very clear that it's reflective and sad. If you're not looking for high voltage, it might deserve your attention.



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