Where Are They Now, G-ville Edition
By Jim Caligiuri, 1:20PM, Wed. May. 7, 2008
In 1992, Freedy Johnston released one of my all-time favorite albums. Can You Fly (Bar/None) remains a watermark of his career with its blend of guitar jangle, exhilarating melodies, and vivid, if slightly obscure, lyrics. He never quite repeated that brilliance, although his major label debut, 1994’s This Perfect World (Elektra), comes close.
Except for a live recording, Johnston’s been absent since 2001. But the Nashville resident's just released My Favorite Waste Of Time (Singing Magnet), a collection of cover songs that allows him to have some fun while displaying admirable interpretive skills and that marvelous, reedy voice. Of the disc's ten tunes, the power pop stances work best, with the Marshall Crenshaw-penned title track and sugary take on Matthew Sweet’s “I’ve Been Waiting." A smoke-filled bossa nova version of Cole Porter’s “Night And Day” shows the other side of Johnston.
Jeb Loy Nichols is another singer that first drew attention in the early 1990s with the Fellow Travelers. The UK-based quartet, whose unique brand of country and dub was deliciously exotic, released three discs on tiny Ohio indie Okra that are impossible to find, but worth scooping up if you see one.
Nichols, who spent some time in 1970s Austin as a teenager, went on to a successful solo career with his 1997 debut Lover’s Knot (Capitol), a finely wrought slab of country soul. He hasn’t had a release stateside since 2002, but this week’s appearance of Days Are Mighty (Compass) proves worth the wait. Now in full singer-songwriter bloom, Nichols’ compositions are simple and gorgeous, at times mystifying, but always tuneful. Check out the silly-yet-sweet “That’s Not What She Said To Me” and the lazy summer soul of the title track. Nichols falls somewhere between Elvis Costello and Ron Sexsmith on G-ville’s artificially-induced singer-songwriter scale and that’s remarkably high praise.