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Saturday, May 17, 2014

featuring the very best of americana, and roots music
May 10, 2014
Scott Foley

I appreciate an artist who's unafraid of blank space.  Despite the fact that elementary art teachers instructed me that art is made by coloring all the way to the edges, sometimes it's the white spaces that define a piece.

After a Grammy nomination and an Americana Music Association nod for 2012's From the Ground Up, John Fullbright certainly could've colored to the margins of his sophomore studio record.  He could have recruited an allstar producer and band, denied being an americana artist and aimed for the fences.  Instead, the Oklahoma writer pares many of his new songs near the bone.  "All That You Know" finds Fullbright's voice supported by only a wurlitzer, while on the self-referential "Write a Song" it's simply a man and his acoustic guitar.  Matter of fact, the record itself is simply called Songs:  a dozen understated pieces characterized by this economical spirit.  Because Fullbright spends much of his time at the keyboard, Songs has been likened to Randy Newman, who was also around 26 when he committed his own statement of musical purity, 12 Songs, to vinyl in 1970.  Whereas From the Ground Up featured a fair amount of biblical imagery, that's less prominent here.  Fullbright still makes room for lines like, "I don't believe in Jesus, I'm told he believes in me / And I think that's good / 'Cause it's a long hard climb / And I feel alright for the very first time". 

This is about the time I usually stop caring.  Once an artist has achieved a wider following that even overflows the americana genre, I tend to be like a dog whose bone has lost its initial flavor.  I'll go sniffing off in search of the next juicy thing.  John Fullbright might prove to be an exception to this rule, as he follows his own muse whether the crowd is following or not. 

*  Candi Staton, "Mr and Mrs Untrue"  Stand By Your Man  (Fame, 71)
*  Delines, "Oil Rigs At Night"  Colfax  (El Cortez, 14)
*  Hooten Hallers, "Garlic Storm"  Chillicothe Fireball  (Big Muddy, 13)  D
*  Howlin' Brothers, "Night and Day"  Trouble  (Readymade, 14)
*  Detroit Cobras, "99 and a Half Just Won't Do"  Baby  (Rough Trade, 05)
*  Mary Gauthier, "When a Woman Goes Cold"  Trouble & Love  (In the Black, 14)  D
*  Joseph Huber, "Same River Twice"  Hanging Road  (Muddy Roots, 14)
*  Parker Millsap, "Disappear"  Parker Millsap  (Okrahoma, 14)
*  Matt Woods, "Snack Bar Mary and the Ten Pin Priest"  With Love From Brushy Mountain  (Lonely Ones, 14)
*  Joe Ely, "When Kindness Fails"  Love and Danger  (MCA, 92)
*  Fire Mountain, "Factory Line"  All Dies Down  (This is American Music, 14)  D
*  Bear Antler, "Never Gonna Make It Out Alive"  EP  (Self, 14)  C
*  Nikki Lane, "Good Man"  All or Nothin'  (New West, 14)
*  Amy LaVere, "Rabbit"  Runaway's Diary  (Archer, 14)  D
*  Edward David Anderson, "Lies & Wishes"  Lies & Wishes  (Royal Potato Family, 14)
*  Water Liars, "Just Be Simple"  Farewell Transmission: Songs of Jason Molina  (Rock the Cause, 14)
*  Songs:Ohia, "I've Been Riding With the Ghost"  Magnolia Electric Co  (Secretly Canadian, 14)
*  Von Stomper, "Lady Venus"  Von Stomper  (Self, 14)  C
*  Secret Sisters, "Pocket Knife"  Put Your Needle Down  (Republic, 14)
*  James McMurtry, "Walk Between the Raindrops"  Walk Between the Raindrops  (Sugar Hill, 98)
^  John Fullbright, "Going Home"  Songs  (Blue Dirt, 14)
*  Kent Goolsby, "Rags to Rags"  Trophies of Youth  (This is American Music, 14)
*  NQ Arbuckle, "Sleepy Wife"  Future Happens Anyway  (Six Shooter, 14)

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