Robbie Fulks' reputation as an insurgent might provide an ironic clash to this record's commercial sound, if the sound wasn't a 30-year throwback. The singer who once penned "Fuck This Town," appears to have reconsidered Music City, and poured himself into a truly fine set of country songs. From the tight bluegrass harmonies and Sam Bush's mandolin trimmings on the opener, to the String Machine ballad "Leave it to a Loser," Fulks connects with the heart and soul of Nashville's mid-'70s commercial country sound.
This is a finely-crafted Whitman's sampler of the '70s best styles, including sad Tom T. Hall-styled narratives, edgy murder ballads, honky-tonk cheatin' songs and country soul. Fulks' most political statement, "Countrier Than Thou," takes a swipe at W, but could also be heard reflecting on the general dogma of "authenticity."
The songs are beautifully crafted (Tim McGraw would do well to check these out while he's awaiting Bruce Robison's next album), and the production and playing are refined in the manner of their inspiration. While this isn't as openly challenging as Fulks' previous hybrids, there's something truly subversive (and incredibly pleasant to hear) in the embrace of such dated commercial sounds.