Gathering two of the albums Daniel Johnston recorded after he moved to Texas from West Virginia, High Wire Music's reissue of The Continued Story/Hi, How Are You features digitally remastered sound, lyrics to all of the songs, and a poster of Johnston's inimitable drawings. It also underscores how much his music was growing and changing at this point in his life. Though placing 1985's The Continued Story, which was Johnston's first studio-recorded album, before 1983's homespun Hi, How Are You seems like a strange choice at first, it works as a way to gradually get into the strange, mostly charming, and sometimes disturbing world that his music occupies. For the most part, the fuller sound and arrangements on The Continued Story strengthen Johnston's fragile voice and unique lyrics instead of overwhelming them. "The Ghost of Our Love" works especially well with the full-band treatment, its drums echoing the ghost's knocking on the door; meanwhile, "It's Over"'s overlapping vocals and intermittent crashing noises capture what made his home recordings so great but give them more focus, as later albums like 1990, Artistic Vice and Fun do. However, he sounds as shambling as ever on "Ain't No Woman Gonna Make a George Jones Outta Me" and "Dead Dog Laughing in the Cloud," a reworked "Sorry Entertainer" with a bizarre Peter Gunn-theme guitar riff played on an acoustic guitar that sounds like it has rubber bands for strings. Johnston takes the opportunity provided by the album's cleaner sound and backing band to stretch out, offering an homage to '20s and '30s pop with the spry, wry "Etiquette" and a simply gorgeous cover of the Beatles' "I Saw Her Standing There," which ranks among his best tributes to his idols. Even after spending time with The Continued Story, 1983's Hi, How Are You still comes as a bit of a shock, with its muffled sound and generally unhinged feel. Johnston introduced this album on MTV's Cutting Edge show by saying "I had a nervous breakdown while I was making it," and it shows on fleeting, anxious ruminations on love and death like "Nervous Love," "I'll Never Marry," and "Get Yourself Together." On the other hand, Hi, How Are You has some of the most whimsical and moving moments in Johnston's early body of work, particularly on "Walking the Cow," "Running Water," and the wonderful "Hey Joe," all of which reflect his growing confidence as a singer and writer. Hi, How Are You is a great example of the darkness and innocence running through all of Daniel Johnston's music; together with The Continued Story, it's still easy to hear why he's been a cult favorite for so long.
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AllMusic Review by Heather Phares
feat: Rick Morgan
feat: Bill Anderson
feat: Bill Anderson