Drinkin’, cheatin, and lamentin’ – the new Robbie Fulks album, Georgia Hard, has a little of all three along with a healthy dose of humor and top-shelf country picking.
It’s ironic that Nashville’s best songwriter is a guy that couldn’t make it in the city’s Music Row hit writing factories. Of course, it wasn’t for lack of talent. It was just business as usual for the tin ear executives who run the town. Of course, it’s a Nashville tradition to overlook those who regularly go on to become legends of country music. There’s some perverse pleasure in seeing Fulks come into Nashville to record Georgia Hard with some of the finest session players augmenting his band and then turn around and go home.
According to recent interviews Robbie has said he was listening to and enjoying early ’70’s country more and it shows.
The first big standout on the album is the countrypolitan flavored “Leave It To A Loser” which features a string section, a spoken interlude, and a bombastic chorus that would have been a perfect vehicle for Elvis Presley to sing circa 1974. The title cut features a protagonist missing the South, “some things just aren’t the same everywhere”, with a musical backing that could pass for The Marshall Tucker Band. There are little Floyd Cramer-style piano flourishes all over the record and some superlative guitar playing. Fulks comes up with a honky tonk song worthy of Dwight Yoakam’s best with, “Each Night I Try” even though Fulks will never be able to “drink his teardrops dry.”
Fulks manages to throw together a crazy quilt of country styles together – there’s Glen Campbell, Jimmy Buffet, Charlie Rich, Buck Owens, and Roger Miller type material; there’s even a country jazz instrumental. To Fulks’ credit, the album never falls into mere homage or parody. His talent binds the whole record into a stand alone document worthy to hold its own against those influences.
Did I mention that Georgia Hard is funny too? I know I did, but let’s mention it again. “I’m Gonna’ Take You Home (And Make You Like Me)” would just be a cute exercise in Fulks putting on a stupid accent except that the song is a duet with his wife, which makes it still sorta dumb, but it’s a sweet sorta dumb.
He manages to question our current President’s Southern roots in “Countrier Than Thou” in a way that should make even a conservative chuckle. I wish more country artists had listened to Roger Miller when they grew up. Maybe we’d have more great records like Georgia Hard. It’s available at Yep Roc Records May 17.