Sign up for newsletter
 

Fulks shows why the fans keep coming back

Club Passim, Cambridge, Mass., September 26, 2017

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

Robbie Fulks looked out on the packed house and commented that there must be some new fans here because they laughed at just the right moment in his song. Apparently, Fulks thought if you'd heard him before, it's old hat by now.

For newcomers, that may well have been the case, but whether new or old fans, one thing that has remained constant throughout Fulks' long career - though sorely underrated, he has never been wanting for fun, high quality shows with a plethora of top shelf mainly traditional country material whether serious or smile inducing and a smart sense of humor to boot.

Fulks is an ultra sharp songwriter, telling tales the way country music used to be with specific themes and characters infiltrating his stories. He tended to be a bit uncharacteristically on the more serious side at least when it came to the music with such songs as "Needed" about looking back on an old teen relationship and " Alabama At Night" with what he said had a James Agee feel.

But he also altered course many times with such upbeat material as "The Cigarette State" about North Carolina, where he grew up, "Katy Kay, and such well-worn, but still eminently enjoyable favorites as "Every Kind of Music (But Country)" and "Rock Bottom, Pop. 1" and "Tears Only Run One Way," all from his 1996 debut "Country Love Songs."

Fulks was onstage armed with an acoustic guitar in hand and usual sidekick, the very fine fiddle man Shad Cobb, who helped a bit on backing vocals. Low key though he is, Cobb provided depth to the music with his playing.

Fulks always benefits mightily from a very good and keen sense of humor, able to weave a good yarn whether about his Aunt Peg who discouraged his love of banjo playing as a seven-year-old kid, or a funny bit about singing a cover recently with Lori McKenna of "You're the Reason Our Kids Are Ugly" (McKenna apparently didn't think his ad libbing was all that funny, but, hey, it made for a good story anyway). The Chicago-based artist can take a stab or two at the crowd, but he also can be self-deprecating.

Fulks has pied his trade for a lot of years and clearly was made for the stage (his recordings aren't too shabby either). Whether a decent portion of the crowd were newbies or veterans (one fan said he had seen him about 10 times), Fulks amply showed why the fans keep coming back and back. With shows like this, the new fans ought to be on the lookout for Fulks.