Traditional Country just got contemporary and a little bit dark.
I’d not heard of Jonny Fritz nor his previous nom de plume Jonny Corndawg when I received this album; and to tell the truth his name didn’t exactly ‘grab me;’ but the album title DAD COUNTRY most certainly did.
I slid the disc into the car CD player and by the time the wheels had turned I already felt that I was listening to something special.
This my kinda Country as the guitar playing and Jonny’s voice are right up my street and the tiny details of an ordinary life that lie strewn throughout the tale of infidelity, Goodbye Summer which opens the album had my ears twitching like a rabbit in the cross hairs.
Fritz has a sweet voice that wouldn’t have been out of place on a Country crossover song in the early sixties and the production on DAD COUNTRY is soft and warm and just perfect for this type of friendly and; dare I say it Commercial Country music.
Fritz and Taylor Goldsmith from label mates Dawes produced the album and they have tapped into the easy going Californian type of Country music rather than the twang of Nashville; although that is always in the background, to deliver an album that could easily be the soundtrack to my Summer.
The song that opens DAD COUNTRY, the ode to a young man’s relationship with an adulterous older woman Goodbye Summer is full of sublime Country guitar, fiddle and pedal-steel and has some of the coolest lyrics I’ve heard in years – “I bet you are the owner of a married man” and “Goodbye Summer/Goodbye Spring/Goodbye Wedding ring.”
After several sessions and long car rides with this as the soundtrack; the saucy love song Holy Water has become a long term favourite. How can anyone not admire a lyric like “Where her belly ends/ and her legs begin/there’s a fork in the road/where my journey ends” – sheer class!
I’ve always been drawn to heartbreak songs in all their guises and Jonny Fritz delivers several here and All I Do Is Complain could easily have been written for me by a family member as it will many married men.
Shut Up is set to a slightly dark shuffle beat with some pretty freaky guitar breaks while Fritz has great fun making his voice rise and fall on what could easily have become a Murder Ballad in other hands; and will surely be a highlight of the live act.
Have You Ever Wanted to Die is probably the most Traditional of Country songs here but yet again there is a dark shadow throughout and I can’t help but love it.
Another stand out track and one of my favourites (for obvious reasons) is the Ragtime flavoured Suck in Your Gut which is a fun tune and guaranteed to get those toes a’tappin.
I could easily have mentioned every single one of the 12 tracks here as they all have something to merit shouting about; but I’ll end by saying I’ve thoroughly enjoyed listening to DAD COUNTRY and it’s already gone into the file for albums of the year.
The album was recorded in Jackson Browne’s LA studio and he features on a couple of tracks alongside members of Dawes and my favourite pedal-steel player in the world; Spencer Cullum Jr; but I only tell you that in passing as DAD COUNTRY is all about Jonny Fritz; who looks like being a great discovery. If you like your music with a slightly Gothic flavour but full of actual stories, melodic tunes and a singer with a memorable voice I urge you to buy this album.
Released April 15/16 2014