Audio Mixer: Kevin Ratterman.
Recording information: The Removador Fun Ranch, Montecito Heights, L.A.
Photographer: Robert Ascroft.
Jonny Fritz clearly loves country music, but he would rather mess around with it than play it straight. And while he's stopped calling himself Jonny Corndawg (the sort of stage name Robbie Fulks was probably imagining when he wrote "Roots Rock Weirdoes"), Fritz still seems determined to wave his freak flag, playing his eccentricities for all they're worth. Fritz's fourth album (and second under his own name), 2016's Sweet Creep, is clearly the work of a guy who want to go out of his way to show you how off the wall he is; the arrangements are frequently off-kilter, pieced together from drum samples, outdated synthesizer patches, and the bellow of cheap guitars, and one would guess the album was recorded in someone's bathroom if Fritz didn't reveal in the liner notes that most of it was actually cut in someone's backyard. But Fritz does have two big things going for him: he's a great songwriter, and for all his mannerisms, he knows how to get those songs across. When Fritz is going for laughs, he can come pretty close to the level of classic Roger Miller or Shel Silverstein ("I Love Leaving" and "Fifteen Passenger Van"), and when he gets serious, his tales of drying out ("Are You Thirsty"), emotionally broken women ("Cries After Making Love"), a touring musician's lot ("Forever Whatever"), and lonely dogs and the folks who adopt them ("Chihuahua Rescue") come from the heart and make him sound like the right kind of eccentric, one who knows something about human nature. And Fritz's voice isn't a traditionally great instrument, but his no-frills singing is a good match for his songs about life along the highway. The album's deliberately murky tone (courtesy of Taylor Goldsmith and Jim James) doesn't always help, but in spite of its sometimes gimmicky tone, Sweet Creep is evidence that Jonny Fritz is a genuine talent and a first-rate songwriter, and with luck, he'll let his guard down some time and let us hear him without his persona getting in the way. ~ Mark Deming