Jonny Fritz: A Country Jester Gets Personal

Apr 25, 2013
Originally published on April 25, 2013 6:16 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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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")

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "FEVER DREAMS")

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")

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")

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

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

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

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