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Fulks: smart, sincere about his music and, oh yes, funny, too

The Wayfarer, Costa Mesa, Cal., February 23, 2024

Reviewed by Dan MacIntosh

Robbie Fulks played an early Friday night show, starting his set at just after eight (and this was even after an opening act). Although it was a show that finished long before the late-night news even came on, Fulks was nevertheless in fine firm – even at this early hour. Accompanied by accomplished fiddler Jenny Scheinman, Fulks played a pleasing set comprised of memorable country, folk and bluegrass-tinged songs.

Although Fulks filled his between-song patter with sarcastic barbs, he was also not afraid to sing super sad lyrics. Tonight, these sad ones included opener "Tears Only Run One Way" and the Buck Owens referencing "The Buck Stops Here." In addition to playing wonderful fiddle fills, Scheinman also sang one of her own songs, the touching "The Littlest Prisoner."

Even without a bevy of backing musicians, Fulks was able to pull off a few fine selections from his recent "Bluegrass Vacation" album, including the drinking song, "One Glass Of Whiskey" and hippie down home number, "Longhair Bluegrass." Fulks was able to make these newer bluegrassy pieces come off well because he's also a skilled and nimble acoustic guitarist. Furthermore, he's an expressive lead singer.

Just watching Scheinman giving Fulks the side-eye throughout the night (reacting to his jokes) was worth the ticket price. The fact that these are also two strong singers and players, however, made the music come fully alive. Fulks writes songs that utilize his wicked sense of humor, it's true, but beneath all that joking is a man with a sincere love for American roots music. It's a lot like having a class clown that also gets the highest grades in class. Robbie Fulks is just as smart and sincere as he is funny.

©Country Standard Time • Jeffrey B. Remz, editor & publisher •
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