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.