A Review of John Fullbright’s From the Ground Up
John Hiatt may be the greatest American songwriter today. He has this incredible blues-tinged pop sensibility, and his expressive (if not pitch perfect) voice takes you right into his world. Randy Newman writes lyrics that connect, the only songs I’ve ever heard that can make folks actually cry. One has to wonder how much longer we’ll be fortunate to have them around. When they hang up their guitar and piano, I’m not sure where we’ll turn.
Yesterday I heard John Fullbright’s From the Ground Up and, well, there’s hope.
Don’t get excited….he’s no John Hiatt…YET. For one thing, he’s mostly acoustic. However, he has the most expressive voice I’ve heard in a very long time. His vocals are more like a conversational drawl and his songs…well, lets just say I thought he was a lot older than his actual age. From what I understand, he’s all of 23 years old but sounds more like 43.
Released on Blue Dirt Records, “From the Ground Up” is consistently good, start to finish. There are no throw away cuts here, although the tempo drags just a bit during the middle numbers. That being said, I found myself smiling (and laughing even!) at how good some of these tracks are. I don’t mean to say that there’s much humor on display here. In fact, the songs seem to be devoid of that sort of thing. No yucks here. These songs are straighforward and honest.
Fullbright’s voice is perfect for this material. “Gawd Above” sets a high bar for the rest of the disc, what with Fulbright’s great vocal work. He’s got the Oklahoma drawl working to maximum benefit on “Jericho” and “Satan and St. Paul”. Fullbright saves the best for last with my favorite track, “Daydreamer”. The final cut is a slow number that, simply put, makes me a liar. It’s great.
If I have a criticism at all, it’s that Fullbright doesn’t let us see his sense of humor. If he has one. That’s the one obvious thing that separates him from the greats. But if you like blues influenced artists who are honest, you’re going to like John Fullbright.
If you’ve had an opportunity to hear this, let me know if you like it as much as I.