Singer-songwriter back to being country Fulks
June 10, 2005
BY MARY HOULIHAN Staff Reporter
Local singer-songwriter Robbie Fulks is a man of many musical tastes. His
roots are in bluegrass; he has a great pop sensibility, and he can rock as
hard as the best in the business. But topping all this is his devotion to a
well-crafted classic country song. This is where his heart lies and where
his talent as a clever, observant songwriter shines.
After several of what he calls "adventurous, hybridized albums," Fulks
heads back into country territory with the recent release of "Georgia Hard"
on Yep Roc Records. The self-produced disc features 15 original songs,
including two co-written with country traditionalist Dallas Wayne. Fulks
will perform these new songs as well as old favorites Saturday night at
"Before those latest albums, the first two records I did were pretty solid
country, and I wanted to get back to writing that type of song," said Fulks
during a phone conversation from Nashville. "I felt I could do it better
than I did seven or eight years ago. And I think I was right. The songs got
better, as did the execution, the playing and the production."
On "Georgia Hard," Fulks sings country music that harkens back to the days
before Nashville was overtaken by the slickness of modern "hat acts." His
clean vocals, memorable melodies and satiric lyrics recall the styles of
Shel Silverstein, Johnny Paycheck and Roger Miller. There is a definite
'70s feel to the new work.
Recording at Nashville's Oceanway studios, Fulks called on some of Music
City's best for assistance. Guest players include Sam Bush (mandolin),
Lloyd Green (steel guitar, dobro), Redd Volkaert (electric guitar), Hank
Singer (fiddle), Alison Brown (banjo), and Alison Prestwood and Dennis
Crouch (upright bass). They join Fulks' stellar band: Gerald Dowd (drums),
Mike Frederickson (bass), Grant Tye (guitar) and Joe Terry (keyboards).
The wonderful thing about classic country songs is the devotion to lyrics
that revolve around the big topics of life, says Fulks.
"Love. God. Relationships. These topics are inexhaustible," he said. "It
just seems that these are the things that life hinges on, and in country
music it's important to write songs that everybody can understand and feel
Fulks grew up near Raleigh, N.C., in a musical family. As a teenager, he
played the banjo in a solo act in the style of John Hartford. In those
formative years, Fulks listened to the Beatles and Bob Dylan but was more
drawn to the Carter Family and the Country Gentlemen. To this day, he
continues to have a gap in his musical knowledge when it comes to the rock
music of his youth.
Now 42, Fulks sees a certain maturity in his latest work. In his 20s, he
was drawn to rockabilly and to the high-adrenaline, testosterone country
music of the '50s, which was basically reacting to the rock 'n' roll
"But I know for sure, back then I could never have appreciated the Gene
Watson-Mel Street school of country in the way that I do now," said Fulks,
referring to two mainstays of classic country. "There's just something
about marriages and mortgages that would have been anathema to a
25-year-old. But I can definitely relate to this as a 42-year-old."
In recent years, Fulks has toyed with the idea of extending his writing
ability into the fiction arena. However, he decided not "to poach on that
territory" but rather to concentrate on the occasional essay for
publications such as the Journal of Country Music, where he's currently
working on a profile of steel guitar player Lloyd Green.
"I just spent the morning with him taking notes on his old memories," said
Fulks. "This sort of thing is right up my alley. I love anything about the
history and artistry of country music. And the essay is a great way to
convey in a casual voice the great truths of ordinary life just like
country music does in its form."