Audio Mixer: Ben Tanner.
Liner Note Author: Donnie Fritts.
Recording information: Sun Drop Sound, Florence, Alabama.
Photographers: John Paul White; Allister Ann; Jonathan Oliphant .
Oh My Goodness is the first solo record by songwriter and keyboard ace Donnie Fritts since 2008, and only his fourth since 1974. He was a quiet, integral member of the legendary Muscle Shoals session crew that delivered so much pop, soul, and country to the annals of music history, and afterwards played an equally important role in country and R&B circles as a session man, writer, and arranger. His songs -- including "Breakfast in Bed," "We Had It All," "Choo Choo Train" (redone in a great new version here), "Take Time to Love," and "Rainbow Road" -- have been recorded by dozens of artists. Producer John Paul White (ex-Civil Wars) also acted as arranger and musical director and issued the set on his Single Lock label. While visiting Fritts, White heard him sing while accompanying himself on his weathered Wurlitzer; some tunes weren't his but he played them as if they were. White coaxed Fritts into building an album around his voice and instrument, and assembled a revolving cast including Alabama Shakes' Brittany Howard and Ben Tanner, Jason Isbell, Amanda Shires, John Prine, David Hood, Reggie Young, Spooner Oldham, the Secret Sisters, Dylan LeBlanc, and various horns and strings. The track list includes originals with choice covers. "Errol Flynn" (written by cabaret singer Amanda McBroom -- she also penned "The Rose" -- and Gordon Hunt) is a daughter's elegy of tribute and loss to her father. Fritts' world-weary voice recalls Levon Helm's; his Wurlitzer digs through White's guitars, Tanner's pump organ, and horns. Another standout is a unique arrangement of Jesse Winchester's "Foolish Heart," with New Orleans-style brass (including tuba), upright piano, and White and LeBlanc's voices. Things get bluesy too. Check this reading of the ubiquitous "Memphis Women & Chicken (co-written with Dan Penn and Gary Nicholson). Hood's hard-grooving bassline adds just a trace of funk to the 12-bar progression and Bryan Farris' leads sting. "Tuscaloosa 1962" touches the Band's greasy intro to "Up on Cripple Creek," with Isbell dealing out a snarling slide guitar. The reading of Gene Thomas' 1971 breakup single "Lay It Down" is killer. Fritts' earthy country-soul vocal is framed by strings, horns, pedal steel, and a stirring gospel-inspired backing chorus. Paul Thorn's forlorn ballad "Temporarily Forever Mine" is a wistful hymn of surrender and longing with only violin, cello, and Young's signature guitar playing as accompaniment. The title track closer is a moving love song with Oldham's piano as the only instrument. It's low-key but passionate. The lyrics express eternal devotion and gratitude to his beloved; the separation of death will not breach its strength. Tenderness and vulnerability are openly expressed, revealing humility, desire, and even wisdom. Oh My Goodness is informal and intimate, but with enough grit and groove to make it a joy. Given its quality, one hopes that Fritts will record again, and soon. ~ Thom Jurek