Review: Jonny Fritz – Dad Country
by Mat Weir
“Broken bottles at the bottom of the pool/what the hell happened here last night?” a great opening for underground artist Jonny Fritz’s third full-length album, Dad Country.
If Fritz’s name doesn’t ring a bell, then maybe his pseudonym, Jonny Corndawg—who released two albums, Down on the Bikini Line and I’m Not Ready to Be a Daddy—will jar some memories. And if you do know the name Corndawg, then give yourself bonus points.
Dad Country differs from Fritz’s previous work in its slick, Nashville production style. While the two albums under Corndawg’s name had more of a trucker-barreling-down-the-highway feel, the 2013 release is more laid back, matured and riddled with a twinge of heartbreak. While his previous work could be compared to Jerry Reed ala Eastbound and Down, Dad Country is more personal, intimate and seems more influenced by Charlie Rich or Willie Nelson.
Songs like “Have You Ever Wanted To Die,” “Shut Up” and the all-too-eerily-resembles-my-last-relationship, “All We Do Is Complain,” exemplify Fritz’s transition as an artist. He’s grown into his own by strapping on the big kid boots, getting his heart broken and then writing about it like all great country artists. Sometimes, the formula ain’t a bad thing.
That’s also not to say the entire album is a “girlfriend left me, took the dog and I spilled my beer” tear fest. Tracks like the opener “Goodbye Summer,” or “Holy Water” are upbeat and fast paced, for some reason reminding me of the Lyle Lovett and Paul Simon albums my parents listened to when I was a kid. Hoaky, but so damn catchy and upbeat you can’t help but dig it.
And that’s really Fritz’s niche in this game and why he originally hit the scene as Corndawg. He’s satirizing the money-fueled, ’70s country sound while still paying homage to the cliché. Even now that he’s trying to have a more serious career, the over-produced sound and abundant lap steel give the album a corny sound. But who doesn’t love faire food?
Dad Country is a great, new album for those of us who can laugh at the country sound while still loving it. The record might not promise a brand new artist in the genre, but instead delivers greasy diners, married bar flies and plenty of hangovers. If that ain’t country, then what the hell is?