Multi-instrumentalist Fritz Hutchison has spent several years behind a drum kit, but now he’s stepping to the front of the stage with Wide Wild Acres, his debut album of original songs. He currently plays drums in alt-rock band Fullbloods and plays guitar and sings in a folk-rock band Lorna Kay’s One Night Stand. Hutchison plays nearly every instrument on the record (with a little help on bass and brass). Wide Wild Acres is a showcase of his bold fusion of jazz, country, rock, and pop, with production help from Joel Nanos (Mumford and Sons, Yungblood).
Wide Wild Acres begins with “Stationary,” a short and sweet alt-rock appetizer seasoned with a dash of Americana. It was previously released as a single to give listeners an idea of what they can expect from the main course. “Stationary" is about Hutchison’s battle with contentment, a personal reminder that beating yourself up for sitting in place isn’t productive. "Stationary" expertly blends rock, jazz, and country into a finished product that feels entirely its own. The juxtaposition of the track is simultaneously sunny and gloomy, soothing and unsettling.
Hutchison’s lesson to himself continues later on in “Schnatterling Dream,” a jazzy, summery, alt-pop realization of the whole frontier of possibilities just waiting to be discovered. In “Police Dogs,” Hutchison pursues a distinctly Springsteen-inspired sound, emanating from the excitement of capturing that feeling in an adventure of semantics and wordplay. Of the track, Hutchison shared with EARMILK, “I don’t even know what [Springsteen] is talking about but it’s exciting. And that feeling, that’s something that kind of transcends time and place. I don’t have to be in New Jersey to like this song, even though this song is very specifically about New Jersey." “Police Dogs” centers around the feeling that everything is happening now, the roller coaster is at the top of the track, and there’s no time to panic before it rounds the summit and rushes back toward the ground.
The album then takes a sentimental turn on “Powder Blue,” a composite of awkward teenage romantic experiences. “There’s a story that gets told around the dinner table with my family about my parents going on their first date and my dad showed up wearing powder blue shorts,” laughs Hutchison. “My mom has made fun of him for it for the rest of his life.” The acoustic guitar ballad takes a jazzy turn with the arrival of the piano and horns as Hutchison cosplays as his own dad and navigates the ups and downs and young love.
In “Currach Mor," Hutchison helps himself to the Gaelic language as he tells a story about the expectations versus the reality of compromise. Currach Mor (meaning the great marsh) is a swampy area at the foot of Carrauntoohil, Ireland’s tallest mountain. “The idea is when you meet in the middle. Its sort of like the grass is greener on the other side of the hill but there’s somebody else on the other side of the hill that is like ‘oh, the grass is greener over there. You end up meeting in the middle and it’s not quite what either of you thought it would be,” explains Hutchison. The instrumentation on "Currach Mor" has a distinctly 70's vibe with it's synthesized piano melody, fused with a chilled-out 90's alt-rock melody. This pairing of nostalgic sounds gives the finished product a mellow atmosphere that isn't too sad and isn't too happy, but instead, meets in the middle.
"Cold Comfort," Hutchison’s story of escaping a bad relationship, is an homage to songs like “Jungle Land,” with artful instrumental arrangements and exciting song archs (and of course, the song’s iconic saxophone solo). Hutchison plays with the overlay of different instrumental voices with a conversational back and forth between the piano melody and a chorus of brass.
The title track, “Wide Wild Acres,” came to Hutchison while he was riding a 4-wheeler through his aunt and uncle’s 77-acre property north of Kansas City. Hutchison shares, "There’s just a lot of love in the family and I was pondering that while experiencing this beautiful open place." Naturally, the track borrows from folk and country to accomplish an earthy sentimentality. It's entirely autobiographical, with intimate images that anyone can relate to, even if they didn't grow up in a household of seven kids in Missouri.
Wide Wild Acres goes out with a twang with its closing track “Fortunate Flaws"—a folk-rock anthem about the tricks of time and coping with nostalgia. “It’s sort of dealing with the feeling of missing somebody and not feeling satisfied with the goodbye or the lack of goodbye,” says Hutchison. We've all had hard goodbyes, and while "Fortunate Flaws," deals with those hard goodbyes, it will make you feel less alone. The warm guitar riffs and rich 70's rock melodies help shift the focus to the positive. You may miss that person, but at least you made beautiful memories. A video for “Fortunate Flaws” is in the works, featuring Hutchison, music, friendship, and last but not least: puppets.
Photo: Anna Selle