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Fulks ages quite well, thank you

Passim, Cambridge, Mass., April 24, 2014

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

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Robbie Fulks is aging quite well. At 51, he just released one of his best albums, "Gone Away Backward."

The Chicago resident, at one time one of the darlings of the alt.-country crowd, keeps putting out albums filled with meaty, well-written songs musically and lyrically. He also may be strong in concert, although that doesn't mean he is on an upward career trajectory.

But Fulks seemed quite satisfied with his lot in his life. His trademark keen sense of humor remained ever in tact. In fact, he unveiled a brand new song near the end, "The Kids and the Cabin." The song concerned an ill-fated vacation with his wife and two boys four years ago in the boonies north of Atlanta, which did not leave them too satisfied. But like any good musician, Fulks got a good, humorous song out of it (even if he did borrow a chunk of the music from another song of his).

Fulks mixed old and new, although one would have been satisfied to hear even more of "Gone Away Backward." While Fulks may have been the darling of yesteryear, the fact of the matter is that about the only thing is he is alternative to these days is the mainstream country, which veers far more pop than anything resembling traditional country.

The same coudn't be said for Fulks, who stuck to his country roots. He sang with a lot of twang while playing acoustic guitar. He showed his fine vocal skills on such songs as the down in the dumps, but catchy "Rockbottom Pop. 1," "Tears Only Run One Way" and "Every Kind of Music But Country" from his "Country Love Songs" disc. Fulks didn't need to name check Hank and Merle to show he knew his way around a country song. In the past, Fulks sometimes was guilty of oversinging, but perhaps in keeping the evening all acoustic, he was more low key vocally.

Shadd Cobb, best known for his bluegrass skills, showed them off time and again on banjo and fiddle, was Fulks' lone sidekick. The low key Cobb, who goes on tour with Steven Seagall (he, too, apparently has gone country) this summer, took lead vocals on one song as well.

Fulks and Cobb were only doing their third show together, but who knew? They meshed quite well, enjoying an easy-going musical rapport.

Fulks showed no signs of slowing down. With concerts like this, he left no doubt why he remains one of the finest country acts out there.

Brooklyn musician Chris Mills opened the show with a batch of songs that showcased his heartfelt emotion, somewhat gritty vocals and songs that hit the mark far more often than not. Like the headliner, Mills also has a good sense of humor and even dissed Fulks' guitar skills.

Never one to back down from a challenge or present one, Fulks gave it back during his show. But more importantly he gave the crowd one excellent night of music.