From the Ground Up
Singer/songwriter John Fullbright hails from Woody Guthrie’s birthplace (Okemah, Okla.) and shares some of the great folk bard’s sympathy for the common man. For the most part, though, this gifted 23-year-old is more concerned with thwarted dreams, lost love, and wounded idealism than protest balladry. Echoes of Neil Young, Tom Waits, and Todd Snider can be heard in these tracks, seasoned with dashes of Memphis rockabilly and honky-tonk country. Fullbright sprinkles Biblical allusions in songs like “Gawd Above” (a monologue by the deity set to a swampy groove), “Jericho" (a plea for self-knowledge), and “I Only Pray at Night” (a stark, piano-centered confession). The swagger and sass of “Satan and St. Paul” and “All the Time in the World” balance the downcast spirits of “Nowhere to Be Found” and “Forgotten Flowers.” Fullbright’s earnest, twang-tempered vocals can sound sardonic (“Fat Man”) or tender (“Song for a Child”) as the tune requires. His first song collection is impressively mature and well-realized, marking him as more than a young upstart from Woody’s hometown.