Right between the extremes

Freedy Johnston has such an emotive croon, it’s hard to look past his more introspective work to realize he can rock out.

1994’s This Perfect World and 1999’s Blue Days, Black Nights suits Johnston for the simple reason that his voice sounds incredible delivering a poignant melody.

By comparrison, his more outgoing work — 1992’s Can You Fly? and 1996’s Never Home — pale by comparrison, despite being strong, rocking records adored by critics.

Right Between the Promises manages to balance the quality of Johnston’s quieter works with the drive of his louder material.

“Broken Mirror” has the sing-song quality that made “Bad Reputation” a dark horse hit six years ago. “Waste Your Time” hammers along with the energy of his earlier work.

“That’s Alright With Me”, on the other hand, indulges in a breezy, jazz-pop feel, while “Radio for Heartache” and “Save Yourself, City Girl” dig into more mainstream American folk-pop.

Johnston even tries his hand at a bit of cryptic-ness, writing a dissonant, arhythmical hook on “Back to My Machine.”

Right Between the Promises is not only well-written and well-performed but well-rounded.

Johnston covers the breadth of his talents, and he does it pretty succintly — the album clocks in just short of 40 minutes.

Right Between the Promises, however, has garnered a bit of criticism from writers who expect Johnston to keep producing poetic short stories in song form.

And yes — this album isn’t big on creating mini-universes, populated with half-drawn but intriguing characters. (Evie is nowhere to be found.) Fans holding Johnston to that harsh criteria may find themselves disappointed in that regard.

But really — Johnston could sing in Gaelic, and his songs would lose none of their emotional strength.

Right Between the Promises is an excellent, concise disc from one of America’s best songwriters. That’s all there is to it.