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Record Review 

How many trees felled? How much ink spilled? And finally, how many synonyms are there for "underrated" anyway? Poor Freedy, he's just too damn talented (not to mention cerebral) for the disposable, quick-let's-get-on-to-the-next-big-thing, world of entertainment. So with everyone else trying to sort out the differences between Staind and Linkin Park, few have enough energy left to absorb the latest offering from Kinsley, Kan.'s favorite son.

Granted, at first Right Between the Promises feels a bit unprepossessing. Comprised of 10 politely tuneful songs cataloging familiar pop music woes (love, loneliness, disappointment), the album initially sounds custom-built for VH1 consumption. But what sets Johnston apart is an exacting lyrical clarity and cinematic eye for settings ("moonless night," "sunrise on a clock tower"), which makes him capable of spinning familiar lyrical conceits into musical poetry. Coupled with Johnston's unmistakable, keening tenor, his songs telegraph a bruised loneliness that clearly sets him apart from lesser pop miserablists. For proof, look no further than "Radio for Heartache," a sparse, elegant lament featuring Johnston's wounded vocals and a lone ukulele. In lesser hands, the song would be cloyingly maudlin, but here it aches tangibly. The rest of the album follows suit.

Still, don't hold your breath waiting for Freedy to become a household name.

Freedy Johnston plays Thurs., Nov. 1, at Eddie's Attic.

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