A giant step forward from his likeable but ragged debut, Freedy Johnston
's Can You Fly
is a stunningly accomplished and coherent album that recalls the raw lyricism of such quintessentially American writers as Raymond Carver and Richard Hugo. Johnston
sold his family's Kansas farm to finance the recording of Can You Fly
, a fact that's cited in the record's opening line and reflected in several autobiographical songs about the guilty downside of pursuing a dream. Elsewhere, Johnston
creates rich character studies of people who are vaguely aware that their lives have gone awry but aren't sure what to do about it. If Johnston
's stories are bleak, however, the delicacy of his melodies and simple, clean production ensure that hearing them is downright exhilarating. Standouts include the wistful gambler's lament "The Lucky One," the tender "Mortician's Daughter," and especially the supernatural-tinged title track. Syd Straw
contributes vocals on one track, the lovely duet "Down in Love."