Showing posts with label Jonny Fritz. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Jonny Fritz. Show all posts

Jul 9, 2020

Album Review / Joshua Ray Walker / Glad You Made It

By Matthew Martin

We all have those things that bring us comfort. When we are feeling a little out of sorts or we are at a crossroads of any kind, we know exactly what to reach for to bring us a little joy or a little comfort at our most insecure moments. For me, as is the case for many people, that comfort has always been music. The kind I tend to gravitate towards when I'm feeling unsure of my reality usually is played in a minor key. But, whether or not it's in a minor key, I want the lyrics to hit home for me. I want to feel like I've been in the songwriter's position before, or know someone who has, or might be on track to be there at some point. I want to feel it.

Joshua Ray Walker has a knack for this type of song. He has a way with words that I can't get enough of. There's humor, sadness, and a sense of joy in his music- sometimes in the same song. On his last album, Wish You Were Here, it felt like lightning in a bottle. Starting off an album with a song as good as "Canyon" seems criminal. To come out of seemingly nowhere and be that devastating in a song had me hooked and wanting more. I devoured that album and became a big, big fan of Joshua Ray Walker's. I did not want to have to wait the typical 2 or so years to have to hear new music from Walker. And thank god I didn't have to wait that long. 

Released a year and a half later, Joshua Ray Walker's Glad You Made It picks up right where his last album left off. These songs stand up right up there with the best of his debut. Those characters are still deeply flawed, deeply unapologetic, and deeply vibrant. They are covering up scars and bruises, They are wondering how the hell they got where they are. But, again, most of all, they are trying to stay alive, like REALLY ALIVE, for one more night.

One thing that stuck out to me about this album is that it is definitely a more rocking, honky-tonking affair, e.g. "User". This album feels like a twisted 70s Capricorn Records cousin (for those that don't know, Capricorn was home to The Dixie Dregs, Marshall Tucker Band, and The Allman Brothers). The cast of musicians playing on this album very clearly were having a fun time. It shows in every song. From the organ-laced rocker of "D.B. Cooper" to the nearly bluegrass "Play You A Song" every song is loose and perfect sounding. The notes intertwine with Walker's interesting, unique twang. Speaking of his twang, I'm not sure there's a voice as unique as Walker's, complete with his falsetto notes and yodeling. And, I absolutely love it.

Where Walker really shines is when he slows it down to explore some demons- whether or not they're his own is not all that explicit. On "Voices" Walker explores lost love, hurt, and deep depression, even pondering his own death. It's an affecting song. It's dark. But, it's incredible. It's required listening. Yeah, it's sad, but music is supposed to make you feel. It's supposed to make you confront some of those demons you've been neglecting so you can become a better person. At least, that's what I like about music. Then there's "Boat Show Girl" which has that humor that I mentioned earlier, with the imagery of a "redneck Statue of Liberty." This is a character study that Jonny Corndawg/Fritz would be proud of. 

I can't wait until we can see live music again, because I know these songs are going to be absolute killers live. This album is going to be in deep, deep rotation for me. It should be for you. Go buy this album and Walker's first album. You won't regret it.

Glad You Made It is available Friday everywhere.

Dec 31, 2013

Best Albums of 2013: Matthew's Picks

10. Black Joe Lewis - Electric Slave
This album continued to grow on me throughout the year.  It's such a strong album full of driving guitar, funky, dirty rhythms, and Lewis's penchant for telling stories of partying as well as more serious themes.  This is Black Joe Lewis all grown up and pissed off.  This is Black Joe Lewis's best album.

 9.  Jonny Fritz - Dad Country
Speaking of growing up, 2013 saw Jonny Fritz change his name from Jonny Corndawg in an effort to not get pegged as a joke affair.  I think Dad Country is the epitome of that change.  There are serious-as-hell songs on here masked in seemingly funny material.  It's not terribly funny though when you think about the narrator of "Ain't It Your Birthday" showing up sometime later at his ex's house to wish her happy birthday.  Character studies are Fritz's forte, and on Dad Country, those lovable losers/weirdos are everywhere.

 8.  Deer Tick - Negativity
Deer Tick really did a 180 on this album.  From Divine Providence to Negativity, there is such a deep contrast, but the essence of what makes Deer Tick a great band serves as the glue; the songwriting.  McCauley and crew wrote some of Deer Tick's best songs for this album, an album darker and more somber than any of their previous.  When you listen from front-to-back, this album hits every note on the melancholy spectrum.  But, it doesn't necessarily make this album a downer.  It makes it an album perfect for reflection- whatever that reflection may be on.

 7. Sturgill Simpson - High Top Mountain
From the first note of this album, I was blown away.  His voice, his honky tonk band, and his stunning lyricism all seemed out of place for an album being released in the year 2013.  But, that's what makes Simpson's album so damn enjoyable.  It's a breath of fresh air to be able to find country music such as this still being made.  With a voice similar to Waylon, I think we'll see much more from Simpson.  Country music needs many more Sturgill Simpsons.  Maybe 2014 will bring more along.

 6. J Roddy Walston & the Business - Essential Tremors
I suppose 2013 was the year of growing up for bands, because on Walston's album, the band took a huge leap in terms of song material.  From dealing with his condition that causes him to shake (thus, Essential Tremors) to the father-to-son tale Boys Can Never Tell, there are songs that are more serious, yet keep the party going with The Business's rowdy backing.  My initial complaint with the album was that I hoped it would have more piano, but after multiple listens, there's not a damn thing I would add or take away from the album.  

 5. Futurebirds - Baba Yaga
Futurebirds continue to be one of the best bands out there with this album.  Taking their reverb-laden rock to new levels in sound, Futurebirds created their masterpiece.  Their numerous EPs and debut LP were great, no doubt, but this album takes that sound, adds years on the road, and finds the band at their peak.  As I have said before, this album is perfect for an afternoon on the back porch/patio/balcony during the summer.  It should also be stiflingly hot.  This is the kind of album we will be listening to for years to come.

 4. Diarrhea Planet - I'm Rich Beyond Your Wildest Dreams
Yeah yeah, the name... It's dumb.  Sure.  But, these boys from Nashville put out one damn fine rock and roll record.  If you can explain to me anything wrong with 4 guitars, I'd love to hear it.  An album rife with the perils of getting older and feeling isolated, the LP rocks harder and more accessibly than anything I can recall in the past few years.  It's also just a lot of fun.  It took me a while to get on board with this band, but once I got over the name, I have yet to be disappointed.  Great band, even better album. 

 3. Ha Ha Tonka - Lessons
I thought Ha Ha Tonka would not be able to top Death of a Decade, but I clearly thought wrong.  An album based on an NPR interview with Maurice Sendak sounded a bit over the top at first.  But, leave it to the guys in Ha Ha Tonka to tackle the subject and do so nearly perfect.  The album sifts through the taste of regret, forcing the listener to tackle regret in their own life, looking back through the days, months, or years.  As with other albums dealing with the subject on this list, it doesn't burden the listener.  It merely poses the question, and it's up to the listener to look back and take the past as it was, or dwell uncomfortably on those times we could have maybe done things differently.

 2. Jason Isbell - Southeastern
My god.  When I first heard that Jason Isbell was sober and had been hanging around Ryan Adams, I was a little worried.  Not because he was sober, mind you.  But, because Ryan Adams career had been somewhat frustrating to me once he reportedly got sober.  I don't blame it on the sobriety, one bit.  I doubt very strongly one writes better or worse on or off substance.  But, I still had doubt that the new, slower Isbell album would be something I would like.  I was wrong.  Dear god, I was so wrong.  This is the most stark and beautiful thing Jason Isbell has ever done.  The songs about sobriety (or, rather, grappling with sobriety) and his new love (the wonderful Amanda Shires) made for one of the best albums of the year.  I'm not sure how anyone can place this album lower than 2nd.  I had the hardest time saying whether this or my number 1 album were 1 or 2.  I changed the order many times.  This album is gorgeous.  It's intense.  And it's Jason Isbell's best damn album, which is saying a lot...

 1. John Moreland - In The Throes
I had never heard of John Moreland prior to this year and to be honest, I'm glad I hadn't. First hearing of this new-to-me artist and hearing his supposedly incredible album was one of the best things to have happened in 2013. The songs on this album are by and far the best songs I heard this year.  They are somber songs.  They are songs that are honest.  Sometimes painfully honest.  When you hear Moreland sing with his raspy, soothing voice, there is nothing but comfort in knowing that there is a person who knows your feeling.  Listening to these songs make one feel, immediately, comforted and slightly uncomfortable.  We are seeing into John Moreland's soul.  The very things he's frightened of, saddened by, and/or angered by.  And, we need that.  We need honesty in songs.  I'm glad I discovered John Moreland this year.  I'm glad he made this incredible album and put it out this year.  At the end of the day, this is, in my mind, the best album of the year.

Honorable Mentions:
Run The Jewels - Run The Jewels. Dawes - Stories Don't End. Earl Sweatshirt - Doris. Fifth on the Floor - Ashes & Angels. North Mississippi Allstars - World Boogie Is Coming.

-Matthew Martin

Jun 27, 2013

Album Review: Jonny Fritz - Dad Country

by Matthew Martin

Jonny Fritz has had a pretty interesting career thus far; already changing his name just a few years in.  The name switched from Jonny "Corndawg" to Jonny Fritz around a year ago or so, in an attempt to not be pigeonholed as an exclusively comedic singer/songwriter.  But, not to fear, folks!  Fritz is still writing clever, catchy country songs about mundane life experiences.

The first thing you will likely notice on Fritz's new album, Dad Country, is the very talented backing band.  This band includes Fritz's trusty side kicks- Spencer Cullum, Jr. and Joshua Hedley- as well as members from Dawes.  Also, interestingly enough, the album was recorded at Jackson Browne's studio.

The album is full of songs about weirdos, truck stop darlings, and everyday screw-ups.  We all know the characters in Fritz's album.  We know that couple who fights over the most trivial issues ("Trash Day").  We know, or have been, that person who is sick and far from home ("Fever Dreams").  It's this uncanny ability of Fritz's to just take these otherwise troubled or annoying characters and make them a bit more tolerable.

One of the things that has always drawn me to Jonny Fritz's music is the classic country flair he brings to his witty songs.  Similar to the great songsmiths Porter Wagoner and Tom T. Hall, Fritz is not laughing at the characters in his songs.  He's merely giving you their side of the story.  Maybe it's just so inconceivable that it comes off as humorous.  Or, maybe it's so uncomfortable ("Ain't It Your Birthday"), that we have to laugh in order to break the tension.  

I think this is probably Fritz's strongest album to date with only one song really not grabbing me in- "Suck in Your Gut."  The collection of songs with strange characters and talented musicians backing them up create an extremely fun listening experience.  Go check out the album here and then go buy it here.  

Fritz has also released his first video for the album:

Apr 25, 2013

New Video: Jonny Fritz (former Jonny Corndawg)

From his quirky-as-hell new album Dad Country, here's Jonny's new equally unique video for "Goodbye Summer."

Aug 15, 2012

Concert Review: Jonny Fritz (The Artist Formerly Known as Jonny Corndawg)

Jonny Fritz at Red Palace in Washington, D.C. 08/07/2012

Seeing Jonny play is something of a spectacle.  Is it serious music?  Is he laughing at the characters in his songs?  Or, merely relaying mundane stories his characters go through in the most sincere way possible?  It would be hard to argue with the last ponder.  I mean, when you hear the character in "Chevy Beretta" you know that you have met that guy.  You have hated that cocky SOB.  But, there was also something about him that endeared you to him.  And it's that precise feelings-at-odds sensation that makes Jonny's music so memorable.

This was the 3rd time in the past year I had seen Jonny.  While I could sense a little road weariness in Jonny's demeanor and banter, I still thought he put on a better show than many musicians- i.e., as much as I love James McMurtry, his frontman skills are slightly lacking.

The show began with a D.C. native Jonny Grave and the Tombstones. Jonny Grave played loud, raucous blues in the style of R.L. Burnside meets Jon Spencer Blues Explosion (think Ass Pocket of Whiskey).  It's very difficult to play this style of music and not have the audience pretty enthralled and dancing.  That's exactly what was happening as the set progressed.  Also, Jonny Grave is quite the front man playing with a chip on his shoulder.  If you don't know Jonny Grave already, I think it's worth your time to look him up and see what you think (here).  

Next was Jonny Corndawg (for the time being).  Bringing with him his backing band (The Almond Brothers Band), Jonny played all of the crowd favorites including "Exercise," "Middle Brother," "Shut Up," and "Silver Panty Liners" just to name a few.  Every song, however comical it may be, was played with utter seriousness and sincerity.  Is that to say that Jonny takes himself too seriously?  No, not at all.  But, he believes in the songs that he writes and the characters they portray.

Half way through the set, he made an announcement.  That announcement being that he would no longer be going by the name "Jonny Corndawg" but would instead be going by his real name, "Jonny Fritz."  I believe this is probably a smart move towards gaining more serious attention.  His songwriting is top notch and this change will likely get him more attention from those who might be put off by a country singer named Jonny Corndawg with an album titled "Down on the Bikini Line."  

As I said earlier, Jonny seemed a little road weary, but it did not detract from the show much at all.  It's hard to go into one of his shows and not come out in a very good mood.  It's fun to see musicians have fun and engage the crowd.  The band had fun.  They are a tight-knit country band and I'm excited for future shows and albums.

Go see Jonny Fritz when he comes through your town.  Go buy his albums.  Give them a listen.  Laugh if you want, that's alright.  There's a lot of humor in the absurd situations that go on day in and day out of our lives.  You have to laugh at them.  As the old Leadbelly lyric goes, "you see me laughin', Lord I'm laughin' just to keep from cryin'." 

I have to think that Jonny's characters might feel the same way.  Or, they don't.  And, I guess that's the beauty of interpretation.


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