Robbie Fulks flexes his alt-country versatility on Upland Stories. He can turn up the twang with banjo laden tunes or put together a soothing vocal performance adorned by hesitant acoustic strums.
Possibly the most striking thing about this album is how good of singer Fulks is. On “South Bend Soldiers On” the melody and vocals make you think of The Beatles’ “Blackbird” while “A Miracle” may be his best vocal performance on the album. On songs like “Needed” and “Never Came Home” you can clearly hear how Fulks could have paved the way for current alt-country superstars like Jason Isbell and Sturgill Simpson. On the more raunchy “Katy Kay” and “America is a Hard Religion” he plucks tunes out of what could have been contributions to the O Brother Where Art Thou? soundtrack, singing them with a yearning vigor. More bluegrass ensues with some snark humor on “Aunt Peg’s New Old Man.” What also helps this album flow so well is his Steve Earle like songwriting where the words flow so smoothly and effortlessly out of his mouth that you feel like any alternate order for them would just sound wrong.
Good albums have a flow to them and Upland Stories definitely fits the bill. It’s a well balanced record and is rough and smooth in all the right places. If you like storytelling you’re in luck too, the songwriting is the glue that holds this whole thing together.
Key Tracks: “America is a Hard Religion” “Needed” “Katy Kay”
Fulks is currently touring in support of this latest effort from Bloodshot Records. He will be playing at the home of Kansas City’s best honky-tonk Knucklehead’s Saloon on Friday, April 4th. Tickets can be purchased here: https://goo.gl/KSIO7h and a full list of Fulks’ tour dates can be found here: http://www.robbiefulks.com/