ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, NOV. 26, 1998
Singer-songwriter-guitarist Robbie Fulks is an up-front kind of guy. He lets people know how he feels, and when he’s feeling pissed off, look out. The object of his wrath was Nashville a couple of years back, when Fulks—unimpressed by his treatment there at the hands of the publishing business—skewered Music City with a tune called “Fuck This Town”.
“That song is about one-half sour grapes,” says Fulks from his current base of Brookfield, Illinois. “The other half is a more serious and general complaint about the state of country music being as abysmal and inartistic as it is nowadays.”
On his latest CD, Let’s Kill Saturday Night, Fulks once again tears a strip off the staid Nashville scene, and—his tenor twang and fret-frying guitar work leading the attack—does so with the subtlety of an anvil to the groin. Those familiar with “Fuck This Town” may be surprised to discover that his latest disc was recorded in the very belly of the country-music beast, but Fulks made the most of his Nashville sojourn, recruiting Lucinda Williams to duet on one tune, and getting former NRBQ singer-guitarist Al Anderson to cowrite and sing on another. Erstwhile Foster & Lloyd singer-guitarist Bill Lloyd played on three tracks, and mandolinist Sam Bush (New Grass Revival) and pedal-steel player John Hughey (Conway Twitty, Vince Gill) made appearances as well.
The varied stylings of the guests on Saturday Night combine with Fulks’s own eclectic influences—his two favourite guitarists are country icon Doc Watson and punk pioneer Richard Lloyd—in stirring music that is at turns pretty and menacing. Local roots-rock fans should make a point of discovering Fulks’s diverse charms for themselves when he brings his quartet to the Starfish Room next Thursday (December 3).
“My first two records were more country,” notes Fulks, “and we do some of that, but then we’ll turn around and do some kinda punk rock, and then a ’60s pop thing, so it’s just all over. We just try to do the good stuff.”
Considering his varied repertoire both in concert and on record, it’s most apt that Fulks coproduced his latest CD with Rick Will, whose credits include everyone from Johnny Cash to AC/DC and from Junior Brown to Bobby Brown. Perhaps the most explosive track to arise from the sessions is “Little Kings”, in which a vitriolic Fulks rages at an unidentified human target amid a storm of feedback and flailing guitars. The singer didn’t have anyone specific lined up in his cross hairs at the time of writing “Little Kings”, though.
“It’s about the kinda guy that you knew in high school that seemed really dangerous,” he relates, “but turns out to be just a typical subbourgeois American loser who goes on to have a mortgage and a big gut and a not-so-romantic life after all.”