How sweet it is. Johnnie Frierson was the brother of the great Wendy Rene and a fellow member of The Drapels, a group unearthed as part of Light In The Attic Records’ 2012 Wendy Rene singles and rarities compilation. The label now gifts us with the holy word of Frierson – via their reissue of his lo-fi, late 60s homegrown record, Have You Been Good To Yourself.
Equal parts spoken word, soul, and gospel, a unique and organic spirit flows throughout the collection. Accompanied by nothing more than gritty guitar and an occasional drumbeat, Frierson’s raw vocals deliver mantras of faith and positivity through a singular brew of plainspoken eccentricity and country church earthiness. Whether preaching self-care and universal love in the booming, fiery title track, graciously swooning a soulful falsetto and fervent thanks in the faith ballad “Heavenly Father, You’ve Been Good,” or beautifully twisting the album’s closer “Trust in the Lord” into a rendition of “Amazing Grace,” Frierson delivers with passionate and earnest faith.
Midway through the collection, Frierson bends the genre with “Miracle,” a positive-affirmation islandic folk sermon. Preaching belief and effort, he sings “Miracles / you can do ‘em / have faith / you are human / only human / and human beings, they do miracles.” Frierson stands tall in his own originality, for both his unadorned, homespun approach to gospel, and his insight with form and content. When he sings “You might know him / he lives in Memphis / he manufactures automobiles / a miracle / they called him Spaceman,” he leaves us with words that poetically mystify. A religious experience, if you want it, no matter your god. words / c depasquale