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Robbie Fulks ages well

TT the Bears, Cambridge, Mass., June 2, 2005

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

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Robbie Fulks is the kind of singer who takes no prisoners.

The Chicago-based country singer plunged a dagger into the Nashville music community awhile back with "Fuck This Town." He has a sharp wit and isn't afraid to skew others either.

But on his very fine new disc, "Georgia Hard" (YepRoc), Fulks goes for a more mainstream country sound, which isn't to say he's sold out at all. After all, Fulks isn't doing pop country these days. He sings with more tenderness on songs that range from laid back to more uptempo.

Fulks brought his new music along with selected songs of yesteryear to life in 100-minute show. As usual, Fulks was an engaging, often times humorous performer.

In fact, one wished Fulks played even more songs from his new album, given its quality and diversity from his past songs.

"Where There's a Road," the title track and particularly "Each Night I Try" were highlights from the new disc. And his version of Webb Pierce's "Tupelo County Jail" had a lot of bounce and energy.

Fulks tended to stay away from much of his past catalogue and particularly his better-known songs. He did a jug band version of "Fuck This Town" as part of the encore because the crowd asked for it. While adopting a different take on the song was welcome, after hearing it a few times in concert, it eventually comes off as sour grapes at an easy target for those who can't stand commercial country sounds.

"Countrier Than Thou," which Fulks performed during the regular set, provided a similar type of humor in poking fun more effectively.

The one negative of Fulks' shows in the past has been a tendency to oversing, where he sounds as if he is so excited that he ends up shrieking almost. Fortunately, he kept that to minimum.

Fulks employed a sturdy band with Fats Kaplin on pedal steel and mandolin a standout. Drummer Gerald Dowd, a local boy, kept good time, while Mike Frederickson was strong on bass and backing vocals. Grant Tye manned electric guitar and also did a good job, though perhaps rocked a tinge.

Fulks hasn't necessarily mellowed over the years, a good thing because he consistently puts on a solid performance.