Before I begin, let me say this: Todd Fritsch’s latest, Sawdust, is pure Nashville, so if you’re not into Nashville, tune out now. If you’re still reading, here is the next point: this album is Nashville at its best. You might be able to argue about the pop-country, over-produced aspects of Nashville’s brand of country, but you can’t deny that Nashville yields talent, and Todd Fritsch has a flatbed full of it. The album is a tour de force from someone who has country music running though his veins. From honky-tonk to Cowboy songs to country crooning – a seemingly lost art – this ranching kid from Texas covers the bases in one of the most stylistically diverse country albums I’ve heard in quite some time.
One thing which is clear from spinning this album is that Fritsch has spent more than a few nights out at a dance-hall. His rhythmic feel is spot-on every time, and his ballads are better fit for a night out on the dance floor than for pop-country radio. Although innovation may not exactly be Fritsch’s gig, he displays knowledge of the corpus of country music and executes the seventeen tracks on Sawdust with musical maturity beyond his years.
The highlights of this album are the book-ends. The opening track, which is the first radio single, ‘What’s Wrong with Me’, is a great example of a well crafted pop tune and the last track, ‘Little Joe the Wrangler’, an old cowboy song is rendered as a tastefully done acoustic ballad. My personal favorite track is ‘All That’s Left is You’, which showcases some classic crooning.
Yes, there are quite a few clichés, like the obligatory love-of-a-lifetime song ‘First Date (for the last time)’, the cheating song ‘Guilty Conscience’, and the pessimistic-about-love song ‘No Part Of’, but Fritsch’s impeccable delivery and superb voice makes even the usually intolerable subjects enjoyable. The only down sides to this album are the tunes ‘The Rock’, which unfortunately conflates Southern-Style Confederate nostalgia with Christianity, and ‘If You Don’t Like Country (Time to Leave)’, a meta-country tune which is actually the most rock and roll tune on the album. Not that there is anything inherently wrong with a little bit of rockin’ country, but for someone who is so proficient in more straight-up twang and two-step, the song topic seems inherently opposed to the style.
For anyone who is into Nashville – Brad Paisley, George Strait, Tim McGraw, etc – check out Sawdust, it’ll give any of The Music City’s big boys a run for their money.
3.5 stars – definitely worth the money, if it’s your thing.
1. What’s Wrong With Me
2. The Rock
3. No Part Of
4. All That’s Left Is You
5. So This Is Love
6. Guilty Conscience
7. If You Don’t Like Country (Time To Leave)
8. Life’s a Circle
9. Texas Talkin’
10. Five Mornings Down
11. Honky Tonk Talk
12. Tequila Tells
14. A Walk To Remember
15. Every Honky Tonkin’ Hero (Has His Day)
16. First Date (For the Last Time)
17. Little Joe the Wrangler
by Justin Patch