Music Reviews
3:54 pm
Thu April 25, 2013

Jonny Fritz: A Country Jester Gets Personal

Originally published on Thu April 25, 2013 7:16 pm

Dad Country is the ersatz debut of Jonny Fritz, but it's actually his third album: He recorded the first two under the name Jonny Corndawg. I enjoyed his 2011 album Down on the Bikini Line, but it's so much slighter, so much sillier and more risqué, that at first I didn't connect the two. From the new album's first seconds, Jonny Fritz sounds more intense and pained.

"Goodbye Summer" opens the record cheerfully — the guy seems like he's having fun, even if he's a little wasted. Although the pace remains generally upbeat and Fritz's tenor stays fairly bright, the underlying mood is darker.

In "Fever Dreams," a song about having the flu, Fritz wails about wanting to call his manager. And when you listen closely, you realize this record could be classified as that cliché of clichés: a plaint about the musician's life. And yet Fritz often makes his songs — about hanging with the wrong crowd and driving 250 miles to a hometown that's lost to him forever — seem pretty universal.

According to Fritz, this album has a backstory: the year he spent trying to salvage the relationship memorialized here in at least three songs. One is called "Shut Up"; another is "Have You Ever Wanted to Die?" But tempos being what they are, the saddest track of all is the slowest, "All We Do Is Complain." Fritz isn't silly anymore.

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Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Finally, some music to close out the hour. It comes from Nashville singer-songwriter Jonny Fritz who recently released his debut album, but it's not his first album. His previous releases came under an assumed name.

Music critic Robert Christgau has this review of the new Jonny.

ROBERT CHRISTGAU, BYLINE: "Dad Country" is actually Jonny Fritz's third album, only he recorded the first two as Jonny Corndawg - D-A-W-G - dawg. I enjoyed his 2011 album "Down on the Bikini Line," but it's so much slighter, so much sillier and more risque that at first I didn't connect the two. From the new album's first seconds, Jonny Fritz is more intense and pained.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, ""GOODBYE SUMMER")

JONNY FRITZ: (Singing) A broken bottle at the bottom of the pool. What the hell happened here last night? I crapped out in the parking lot. But you did sleep all right. Cigarette buds and a coffee cup. Someone please call my phone. And we swing by a CVS. I left my contact solution at home. Oh. Goodbye summer, goodbye fall. Hello, people, I don't know at all. Goodbye winter...

Lost contact solution and all, "Goodbye Summer" opens the record because it's relatively cheerful. The guy sounds like he's having fun even if he's a little wasted. But though the pace remains generally upbeat and Fritz's tenor stays fairly bright, the underlying mood is darker. Here's a little something about the flu.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "FEVER DREAMS")

FRITZ: (Singing) Orange juice and ear drops and antibiotics and generally just a wasting away. Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh. Want to go home, or I can just lay down on the cold concrete kitchen floor. Man, I hate this so I just can't shake it. This is not something I could call my manager for.

CHRISTGAU: The reference to Jonny Fritz's manager is not atypical. When you listen close, you realize this record could be classified as that cliche of cliches, a plaint about the musician's life. The reason you don't notice is that Fritz makes his songs about the wrong crowd and driving 250 miles to a hometown that's lost to him forever seem pretty universal.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "AIN'T IT YOUR BIRTHDAY")

FRITZ: (Singing) Why in the world are you blocking the doorway? I want to come inside and sing happy birthday, say hi to your mama, eat a piece of cake and tell your little brother dirty jokes. I want to lie to everybody that the star I am, the big city life that I'm living, all of the money that they're trying to give me just to sign a couple compact discs. Hey, well, ain't it your birthday? Then why aren't you smiling? I just drove 250 miles in the middle of the night on an empty tank, dodging deer along the way.

CHRISTGAU: According to Fritz, "Dad Country" has a back story - the year he spent trying to salvage the relationship here memorialized in at least three songs. One is called "Shut Up," another one "Have You Ever Wanted to Die." But tempos being what they are, the saddest of all is the slowest - "All We Do Is Complain." Jonny isn't acting silly anymore.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ALL WE DO IS COMPLAIN")

FRITZ: (Singing) I bet you had a hard day, and I bet you're too tired to talk.

CORNISH: The album from Jonny Fritz is called "Dad Country." Our reviewer is Robert Christgau.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ALL WE DO IS COMPLAIN")

FRITZ: (Singing) And we're just wasting away. We were damned from the start. Would you rather walk away and give it a new start?

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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