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Review: Freedy Johnston, ‘Rain on the City’

SPIN Rating: 8 of 10
Release Date: January 12, 2010
Label: Bar/None

As he has for two decades, singer-songwriter Freedy Johnston plays the unreliable narrator in this exquisitely unsettling folk-rock collection. Take “Lonely Penny,” with its hymnlike harmonium and untrustworthy guy telling his conquest that “it was arranged in the stars we should meet,” and cue shivers. In “Livin’ Too Close to the Rio Grande,” another scammer riffs about “the wife, the ex, and the government.” The title track may drift by, gentle and painterly, but Johnston’s characters always make a deep impression. You won’t budge until their riveting, capricious raps are over.