Donnie is simply one of the best songwriters around. "One Foot in the Groove" is humorous, clever and heartbreaking. Everyone should own it.
Billy Bob Thornton
Like the baseball player whose statistics fail to tell the story of a Hall of Fame career, the impact of Donnie Fritts goes far beyond what might appear on his musical resume. Fritts, known as the Alabama Leaning Man, remains as one of the elemental names in Muscle Shoals music. Allow none other than Jerry Wexler to explain:
Music was so deeply ingrained in Muscle Shoals - in guitarists like Eddie Hinton, keyboardists like Spooner Oldham, songwriters like Donnie Fritts. Music was in the air you breathed and the water you drank, coming at you so inexorably and naturally that I found myself returning to the place not simply a few more times but on dozens of occasions over the next quarter-century.
The "resume" of Donnie Fritts includes several seminal songs (Breakfast In Bed, A Damn Good Country Song, and his classic We Had It All) and many years as Kris Kristofferson's keyboard player. Fritts has released three solo albums over a 30+ year span. Since it was 23 years between his first solo album (Prone To Lean) and his second (Everybody's Got A Song) record, waiting only 11 years for One Foot In The Groove seems right speedy.
Produced by the equally legendary Dan Penn, this latest Fritts album might be his greatest solo achievement yet. Penn serves as a fantastic producer, the perfect man to present Fritts as a front man. The groove emerges and sustains. The soul envelops. Most of all, the humor and good feeling present themselves throughout.
Like the best writers, Fritts remains an open emotional channel. We hear his true self in each note, each word. Fritts can write something fun (Chicken Drippings) something heartfelt (She's Got A Crush On Me) and something heartbreaking (Robin In The Rain). Soul music, my friends. Soul music indeed.
Donnie Fritts received a lifesaving kidney transplant in 2001. This writer was in attendance at the benefit show for Fritts in Florence, Alabama. The show was put together at the last minute, but the list of legends was long. Going from memory, the performers included Buzz Cason, Dan Penn & Spooner Oldham, Billy Swan, Delbert McClinton, Tony Joe White, Kris Kristofferson, and the late Waylon Jennings. It was a night of intimate performances with most coming off the cuff since there was little rehearsal time.
Fritts was also a performer that night. He came to the stage to play perhaps his greatest song, We Had It All. The emotion of the night and likely his medical condition overwhelmed him. He couldn't finish it. In the end, one minute of Fritts equalled the impact of the rest of the night's performers combined.
For those that followed the recent "Buffalo Roaming" series on GRITZ, you know that Donnie Fritts is a great guy, someone you love from the moment you meet him. That side of him comes out in his music. Donnie Fritts also lives as a man who can shed tears of sadness as well as joy. He understands those tears come from the same place - the whole of the human experience.
His friends already know it, but one listen to One Foot In The Groove serves as a reminder to the rest of the world what a treasure we have in Donnie Fritts. Pick up a copy and hit play. Live in Fritts' world for 12 wonderful songs. There's a lifetime of experience in each word, note, and groove.
- Jim Markel