Earlier this year, we caught up with Single Lock records and observed how they have grown in the short time since the label was founded. Since our very first meeting, the label has more than doubled its roster and continues to be a resource, helping artists grow in a way that best suits the artist’s vision.
Each quarter, we are featuring different Single Lock artists in our online store; this quarter we are highlighting veteran musician Donnie Fritts and the newest addition to the Single Lock artist roster, Penny & Sparrow.
Donnie Fritts is a Florence, Alabama, native and a well-respected songwriter who has penned hits like “We Had It All” (recorded by such artists as Waylon Jennings, Ray Charles, the Rolling Stones, Tina Turner, and Willie Nelson) and “Breakfast in Bed”, which he co-wrote with Eddie Hinton for Dusty Springfield. In the 60s, 70s, and 80s, his songs were recorded by artists like Charlie Rich, Jerry Lee Lewis, the Box Tops, and Ronnie Milsap. Donnie also became an actor and spent 20 years as keyboardist for Kris Kristofferson, where he became known as “Funky” Donnie Fritts.
He recorded the critically praised Oh My Goodness on the Single Lock label, produced by John Paul White. The record features a host of Alabama stars, all on board to pay tribute to Fritts: Alabama Shakes members Brittany Howard and Ben Tanner (co-owner of Single Lock Records), Jason Isbell, The Secret Sisters, Dylan LeBlanc, St. Paul and the Broken Bones horn players Ben Griner and Allen Bransetter and longtime friends and music legends David Hood, Spooner Oldham, and John Prine.
On Oh My Goodness, Fritts’ voice is a weathered instrument, but one that conveys emotion with unexpected tenderness. The music is more polished and spare than in previous records and showcases the songwriting that he is so well known for. “This album means so much to me,” Donnie says. “I thought I wouldn’t get another shot. It’s the most personal and important album to me. It’s one of the most special things I ever got to do in my life.”
Singer-songwriter duo Penny & Sparrow, out of Austin, Texas, began making music together in 2010, when they were roommates at the University of Texas in Austin. Andy Baxter and Kyle Jahnke built their reputation for honest, unadorned acoustic music over years of touring. Let a Lover Drown You is their third full-length album, produced by John Paul White and Ben Tanner. The record is hauntingly beautiful and melancholic and marries their characteristic minimalist sound with White and Tanner’s richer arrangements.
Their music is clearly influenced by artists like Simon and Garfunkel, Swell Season, Bon Iver, and even some Broadway composers. (Baxter is so inspired by the musical Les Miserables that each record contains an homage; in Let a Lover Drown You, the closing song is titled “Eponine”, after the iconic character.) Their well-paired harmonies and thoughtful lyrics make it clear why the duo has a fervent touring fan base. This record features both White and Tanner—and bass player David Hood (of the legendary “Swampers”) makes several appearances.
Penny & Sparrow are currently featured on NPR Music’s annual “Austin 100” list, spotlighting their favorite artists for each year’s SXSW Music Conference. Let a Lover Drown You was just released on March 11. Look for Penny & Sparrow, currently on tour (hopefully) in a city near you.
Photos courtesy of Single Lock Records