On his first full length release Dad Country, Jonny Fritz brings it all back to the golden age of country’s long haul FM dominance over the course of 12 diesel soaked, caffeine abusing, all night-riding tracks. “It’s been done…” You say? Yeah right bub, not this well in about 30 years.
Better recognized as Jonny Corndawg, Mr. Fritz has ditched the carnival fare moniker for his own God given and a fresh perspective on an exhausted genre. Perspective is the key word here. One might be quick to assume Dad Country as another one of those sentimental records full of weepy balladry, rural cliches and trashy romances. Nope, that’d be modern radio country. What makes Mr. Fritz so exciting if not refreshing is his treatment of the subject matter.
Take for instance, “Wrong Crowd.” When was the last time you heard a thug life diary entry set to sock hop? Hopeless future? He’s got your number on the Irish jig meets western psychedelic “Fever Dreams.” Zydeco more your thing? “Birthday” will put a fire in your two step. The hard liners amongst ye are probably wondering about the traditional element. Well, rest assured the fiddle licks on “Holy Water” or the flat picking on “Suck In” are so pure they’ll have your grandpap misty eyed for the good old days before he dodged the draft.
And we haven’t even touched on lyrics yet. Jonny Fritz displays an uncanny ability in writing about big subjects in personal ways that would come off as trivial in lesser songsmiths. Tragedy is thankfully absent from the album, and the romantic numbers keep well clear of typical end-of-the-world all or nothing melodrama. There’s a slice of life to the lyrics, a spirit Americana that I’d long feared dead. As if channeling Roger Miller or else early David Allen Coe (minus all the racism and smut) there’s a certain tongue in cheek humor pervading throughout, inducing a reluctant chuckle even during the serious numbers that just might be the realization: “I’ve been there.”
Delivered in a fragile, silk lined voice Jonny Fritz sings with heart without taking himself too seriously. Dropping references to the members of his own band there’s a humbleness, a connection to humanity that has long been absent from the conditioned stars and premanufactured personalities of top forty country. Dad Country is crisp, fun and modern, the perfect road trip soundtrack for that summer get away. Fresher than your big city hipster friends yet home enough to entertain even the harshest critics within the fam back in the sticks, Jonny Fritz makes country cool again.