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From the Country Standard Time Archives

Fulks, Watson, White should make everybody love this kind of music

Johnny D's, Somerville, Mass., Sept. 18, 1997

By Jeffrey B. Remz

SOMERVILLE, MA - In "Every Kind of Music But Country," the lead-off song of his album, Robbie Fulks sings of a woman who liked everything about him, except for one thing - his musical bent towards country.

Clearly, the woman never saw Fulks, one of the leaders of the so-called insurgent country movement, in concert. But if she had bothered to show up at Johnny D's Thursday, she would have seen one of the finest bills of any type of music in a long time - with Fulks sandwiched in between opener Joy Lynn White and Texas honky tonker Dale Watson.

This isn't the kind of country music you're going to hear on commercial radio stations. It's far too country (and non-commercial sounding) for them with Watson mixing truck driving songs and Merle Haggard influences, Fulks bounding about with great energy and even greater songs, and White belting out songs with her husky voice.

The buzz around Fulks has been growing steadily and deservedly so. His first disc, "Country Love Songs," was one of the best last year. A new one is due on the small Bloodshot label of Chicago, where he now lives, next month.

But as fine as the disc is, it just doesn't do him justice in concert. Barely even making it onto the bill until one week ago, Fulks had never played the Boston area before, and some in the crowd had never heard of him.

They won't be saying "Robbie who?" anymore.

What all received was a healthy dose of country music with some edge, bite, charm and wit. Fulks was full of Energy throughout, spitting out the vocals and clearly enjoying his time.

Fulks was aided by fine playing courtesy of guitarist/banjoist Tuey Connell, bassist Lorne Rall and drummer Dan Massey. The rhythm section maintained a steady beat, and Connell propelled the songs. With Fulks on guitar, the mix between the guitars was well done.

The only negative was Fulks could have used a more honest sounding pedal steel sound on several songs.

The towering Fulks (he's 6'5") had tremendous build during his 50-minute set and did so in almost every song as well.

And Fulks had a wonderful sense of humor to top it off. Sometimes it came off as cynical, particularly the closer to the regular set, "---- This Town," an indictment of the Nashville music industry if there ever was one.

White also had never played Boston before, and she was up to the task. After critically acclaimed albums for Sony and one on the small Little Dog label, White's career has never really taken off.

White, clearly appreciative of the crowd response, came off as a huskier, tougher version of Kim Richey. She alternated between songs showcasing her big voice ("Too Big For This Town") and slower tempo songs. She was aided by ace guitarist Tim Carroll (writer of "Every Kind of Music But Country"), who gave the songs meaty country flavorings throughout.

Watson is helping lead the new age of honky tonkers. The Austin resident's vision of country lyrically is about the common people and events of life.

He was able to make songs about having a flat tire while touring in England, Louis, the owner of a Lou's Liquor Lounge in Minneapolis, and, of course, truck driving.

No matter the subject matter or style, Watson's voice is a key ingredient to making it all work. He can reach the low notes with ease and possesses an easy voice to listen to.

Like Fulks, Watson took his shot at the Nashville establishment as well in "Nashville Rash" where he recites the litany of forgotten artists deserving a better fate.

Many argue today's popular country music deserves a better fate. With Fulks, Watson and White, how couldn't you like country?