If Madison-based Freedy Johnston and Austinite Jon Dee Graham had their way, the songs on their new record would have all been about jail time, car wrecks, unemployment, infidelity, hospital stays. You know. Emotional house fires. They also would have, left to their own devices, written all 19 songs in a day.
Instead, enter New Orleans-based Susan Cowsill, she of the singing Cowsills of the 1960s, the real family on which TV's Partridge Family was based. Cowsill's contributions infused hope into the playlist, a set of songs that took not one day to pen, but...three.
Some songs work better than others. Graham, who's in the True Believers with Alejandro Escovedo, is a guitarist first and a singer second. Still, Graham's crunched-gravel moan is tailor-made for the back-to-back wonders "All Things Being Equal" and "Almost Dinnertime." These two songs represent the project's split personality of hope and despair. The former acknowledges that bad luck is par for the course. The latter is a promise of better things.
Freedy Johnston's voice is a perfect foil to Graham's, and it wraps like a ribbon around Cowsill's. These are songs from the hearts of veteran rockers who are at the height of their productivity.