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Album of the Year: John Fullbright - From the Ground Up | reviews, news & interviews

Album of the Year: John Fullbright - From the Ground Up

Album of the Year: John Fullbright - From the Ground Up

Sensational start from Oklahoma-born singer-songwriter

Today the back porch, tomorrow the world for John Fullbright

It's a happy coincidence that John Fullbright hails from Woody Guthrie's home town of Okemah, Oklahoma, but his debut album presents an artist who is far from being a mere clone of the fabled balladeer. A spin through the dozen tracks on From the Ground Up reveals traces of blues, country, gospel, folk and rock, all handled with rough-hewn earthiness. But while Fullbright has a traditionalist's respect for old-fashioned stuff that works ("old country and bluegrass is my bread and butter," as he puts it), it's his gift for imagery and storytelling that makes his songwriting special.

Reared on the Lord and the Bible, Fullbright is in the process of getting religion out of his system, which provides him with plenty of ammunition. In opening track "Gawd Above", he adopts the persona of a deity reminding his ungrateful creations who's boss. Amid the weary honky-tonk strains of "Satan and St Paul" there's the confession of a man assailed by the works of the Devil and hoping for an overdue break. "I Only Pray at Night", which is based around Fullbright's resounding church-hall piano, and "Jericho" are tales of quest, both inward and outward.

You want autobiography? "All the Time in the World" is like a lifetime in four verses, taking in a brisk appraisal of his home state while reconnoitering both the past and the future. Politics? In "Fat Man", Fullbright unexpectedly goes all Kurt Weill on us in a macabre, misshapen account of warmongering capitalism. Then he can slay you with heartbreak ballads like "Nowhere To Be Found" or the exquisite old-school country of "Forgotten Flowers". Fellow-Oklahoman Jimmy Webb has tipped Fullbright to become "a household name in American music," and he's not a bad judge.

Fullbright is in the process of getting religion out of his system, which provides him with plenty of ammunition

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Average: 4 (1 vote)

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