Today’s Cool album of the Day (#744 in the Series) is John Fullbright, From The Ground Up. (Blue Dirt Records)
I would venture to say that most of you have never heard of John nor this album as of yet and I think that’s a big yet. I happened to catch a review of the record on NPR’s website. When I see a record review that mentions the names Woody Guthrie, Townes Van Zandt and Randy Newman in one sentence – I kind of had to take notice. But I don’t want you to think that this is a record that doesn’t stand on its own merits. To say that Fullbright was just relying on those influences would be a big mistake. He has taken those influences and many more and manages to come out sounding like no one but himself.
I think he is one of the most talented new artists around, and this is a record that you recommend to almost anyone. It doesn’t fit easily into any one genre, but a blend of everything from Americana to rock with a splash of gospel, folk and who knows what mixed in for good measure.
Fullbright is still in his early 20’s but sounds like he has been around much longer. It was hard for me to believe that this is his first studio album. He also has a live album that preceded this one titled Live at the Blue Door that I can also highly recommend. The record is a great mix of tunes and styles, but doesn’t just bounce around from one to the next. Songs flow from spiritual rockers written from the point of view of God himself, to slow, almost intimate piano ballads, to country folk songs and rockers that have you singing along before you realize that you haven’t even heard the song before. It sounds like he painstakingly put together this record. It’s not just a bunch of songs to download – it’s a record to listen to.
The lyrics are at times caustic, at times touching, each word seems to be sweated over and worked into just the perfect spot in each song. The music accents them perfectly – I think if you had a version of the cd without the vocals you would still perfectly know what each song was about. I can’t think of a record that has come out in a long time where the music and the lyrics have worked so well together.
Let’s get the Woody Guthrie comparison out of the way. Fullbright was born in Okemah, Oklahoma, The birthplace of one Woodrow Wilson Guthrie as well. I hear touches of another Oklahoma musical great – Leon Russell, in Fulbright’s ballad “Nowhere to be Found.” It could be an outtake from any of Russell’s early albums on Shelter records. It’s a little bit in his voice and even more so in his piano playing, but don’t think of this as something he was trying to do. In a recent interview Fullbright said, “I’m a huge Leon fan. The bottom line is we have the same goofy voice. It’s uncanny even to me…. My grandpa was his stepdad’s cousin. I say it, and I can’t actually do the math.”
I’ve gotten this far in my review without even mentioning my favorite song from the record, “All the Time In the World.” It starts with a blast of his harmonica and then the band settles into an almost soul groove behind him as he sums his own life up “ trying to make a living off of song and sound” I don’t think that John will have a problem doing that if this record is any indication of the direction he is headed.
Don’t just take my word on him … “I have no doubt that in a short time, John Fullbright will be a household name in American music.“–Jimmy Webb
-- Rob Henry, Bethesda, Maryland USA
- Gawd Above 3:35
- Jericho 6:32
- I Only Pray at Night 3:05
- Satan and St. Paul 4:09
- Nowhere to Be Found 4:29
- All the Time in the World 4:30
- Fat Man 4:04
- Me Wanting You 4:31
- Moving 5:04
- Forgotten Flowers 3:33
- Daydreamer 4:31
- Song for a Child 4:20
- John Fullbright – Guitar, Harmonica, Organ, Piano, Vocals
- Giovanni Cornuccio III – Drums
- Ryan Engleman – Guitar
- Andrew Hardin – Guitar
- Fats Kaplin – Steel Guitar, Violin
- Jess Klein – Vocal Harmony
- John Knudson – Organ
- Wes Sharon – Bass
- Terry “Buffalo” Ware – Guitar