Songs You May Have Missed #28

fulks

Robbie Fulks: “Tears Only Run One Way” (1996)

When asked “Do you like country music?” I almost always answer no, because I assume the question means “Do you like flag-waving, beer-chugging, chew-spittin’ anthems to ‘bein’ country’?” “No” is a simple answer for people who seem to like things simple. But it’s a little more complicated than that of course. So I’ll explain further, because I assume if you make a habit of reading what’s written here you won’t mind the longer answer.

I like: Rockabilly, Old Time Country & Western (with the “western”, please), the “Countrypolitan” sounds of the Glen Campbell/Charlie Rich 1970’s, the “new Bakersfield sound” Dwight Yoakam first proffered in the 80’s, the smooth country/adult contemporary sound of Restless Heart, the voice of Patty Loveless, the acerbic wit of Lyle Lovett (first three albums especially), the songwriting genius of k.d. lang and Steve Earle, the put-on hillbilly shtick of Southern Culture On The Skids, Country Rock, Roger Miller, Johnny Cash (when he wasn’t pandering to twenty-somethings to stay “relevant”), Rosanne Cash, any great songwriting that happens to be country music, Elvis Costello’s country album, Neil Young’s pseudo-country albums, the Jayhawks, the sound of lap steel, and Robbie Fulks.

Notice nowhere did I mention Taylor Swift–not because I have anything against her. She just isn’t singing to me. But at least she isn’t making a living writing songs about how “country” she is. The two types of music I disdain most are country that’s about “being country” and rock that’s about “rockin'”.

Aaanyway, I was going to tell you that Robbie Fulks is kind of a hillbilly with a subversive sense of humor. He writes songs like “She Took a Lot of Pills (and Died)” and “Papa Was Steel-Headed Man” and he did an entire album of Michael Jackson covers–pop versions, not country. He’s done an acoustic cover of Cher’s “Believe” and written a song about his infatuation with Susanna Hoffs. So mainstream country he’s not. And that’s good.

Nor is he trying to impress by being “authentically” anything. If he can make a song sound prettier by polishing it up with a little vocal reverb or harmony, he will. He sings like a hillbilly, and he sings about hillbilly stuff (sometimes) but mainly he’s just a songwriter with a hot band backing him (his live record smokes) who just follows his gut from album to album, putting his songs across whatever way seems good at the time.

See also: https://edcyphers.com/2013/02/25/songs-you-may-have-missed-343/

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Songs You May Have Missed #343 | Ed Cyphers

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