Album Reviews

Robbie Fulks

Upland Stories

Artist:     Robbie Fulks

Album:     Upland Stories

Label:     Bloodshot Records

Release Date:     04/01/2016


It’s not only age that appears to have mellowed Robbie Fulks. At 53, he also has a lot to reflect upon. Once an insurgent young gum signed to Chicago’s upstart Bloodshot Records label, he’s now reconnected to the company but waxing knowingly on life lessons and his own wizened reflections of his early years in the South. While most of the songs are graced by mellower musings — think James Taylor in terms of his tender tales — the lessons imparted aren’t always as sunny as they seem. “Fare Thee Well, Carolina Gals” is serene on the surface, but the tale it tells, of a man whose life has lost its possibilities, is bittersweet at very least. “Never Come Home,” one of the sweetest songs on the album, revolves around a man who’s come home to die, only to find that the company of people he’s returned to are far less than the welcoming crowd he had hoped for. Still, there’s humor amongst the sobriety; the gentle “Baby Rocked Her Dolly” and the carousing “Aunt Peg’s New Old Man” is upbeat and assured and sung from a bemused yet knowing stance. Yet when Fulks rallies, he gets rowdy, as expressed in the traditional-sounding “Katy Kay” and the ragtag romp of “America Is A Hard Religion,” an unsuppressed rant which sends up the idea that America is the welcoming place it’s touted to be. Knowing, compassionate, tender and touching, Upland Stories impart life lessons that are worth revisiting again and again.

– Lee Zimmerman

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