Back in 1993, on the heels of Can You Fly, Freedy Johnston did a pretty good cover of Glen Campbell’s version of Jimmy Webb’s “Wichita Lineman,” which might have even been a small radio hit.
He’s been performing it ever since, which is probably what inspired him to write a follow-up, the title track to 2014’s Neon Repairman, an album that Freedy crowd-funded through Pledgemusic.com.
Because that’s where we are with getting new music from great cult singer-songwriters these days.
Also indicative: there isn’t even an AllMusic review for Neon Repairman, which is a shame, because it continues the trend of 2010’s Rain on the City: great songs, with smart lyrics and gorgeous melodies, all sung in Freedy’s unique cadence.
Like the title track, where over an acoustic guitar and mandolin, Freedy introduces the son (or hell, grandson) of the Wichita Lineman:
I am a repairman of neon lights
Driving this town almost every night
Climbing way up where the neon’s found
And I hear you there in that neon sound
And you’re like, oh shit, that’s probably a thing. Of course there has to be someone whose entire career is repairing broken neon lights. So much so that you might not even notice the resemblance to the opening lyric of “Wichita Lineman” where he hears her singing in the wires.
And then, with his voice straining and bending to nail the melody, Freedy hits the chorus:
A neon repairman
It’s all I’ve ever done, man
The darkness is my friend
A neon repairman
It’s so beautiful that you can forgive him for rhyming “man” with “man.” Meanwhile, later, he makes the “Wichita Lineman” connection explicit:
I need you more than want you
As the story goes
After that, there’s some lowdown guitar doing a solo against the acoustic guitar and mandolin, and Freedy ends up singing “Neoonnnnnn” over and over as if he’s sending the Neon Repairman off into the night, saving yet another sign from saying “ICE COLD EER” for all eternity.
“Neon Repairman” performed live at Daytrotter in 2013 (audio only)
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