John Fullbright Songs on LP + Download Card
“What’s so bad about happy?” John Fullbright sings on the opening track of his new album, Songs. It’s a play on the writer’s curse, the notion that new material can only come through heartbreak or depression, that great art is only born from suffering. That plainspoken approach is part of what’s fueled the young Oklahoman’s remarkable rise. It was just two years ago that Fullbright released his debut studio album, From The Ground to a swarm of critical acclaim. If there was any doubt that his debut announced the arrival of a songwriting force to be reckoned with, it was put to rest when it was nominated for Best Americana Album at the Grammy Awards, which placed Fullbright alongside some of the genre’s most iconic figures, including Bonnie Raitt.
If there’s a recurring motif that jumps out upon first listen to Songs, it’s the act of writing, which is one Fullbright treats with the utmost respect. “When I discovered Townes Van Zandt, that’s when I went, ‘You know, this is something to be taken pretty damn seriously,’” says Fullbright. “‘This is nothing to do with business, it has to do with art and identity.’ You can write something that’s going to outlast you, and immortality though song is a big draw.” Fullbright inhabits his songs’ narrators completely, his old-soul voice fleshing out complex characters and subtle narratives with a gifted sense of understatement.
The arrangements on Songs are stripped down to their cores and free of ornamentation. Fullbright’s guitar and piano anchor the record, while a minimalist rhythm section weaves in and out throughout the album. That’s not to say these are simple songs; Fullbright possesses a keen ear for memorable melody and a unique approach to harmony, moving through chord progressions far outside the expected confines of traditional folk or Americana. The performances are stark and direct, though, a deliberate approach meant to deliver the songs in their purest and most honest form.
The songs also reflect how drastically Fullbright’s life has changed since the release of From The Ground Up, which launched him into a rigorous schedule of international touring. “Going Home” finds him appreciating the simple pleasure of heading back to Oklahoma, which he likens to The Odyssey. “I Didn’t Know” is a song he premiered live at concert hosted by Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell, a story he tells still somewhat incredulously, while “When You’re Here” is a somber piano love song, and “The One That Lives Too Far" is a raw account of the strain that distance can put on a romantic relationship. “All That You Know,” which features just voice and Wurlitzer, implores listeners to appreciate what’s right in front of them, and the finger-picked “Keeping Hope Alive” is a song of resilience through hard times.
To be sure, Songs has its moments of darkness, tracks born from pain and heartbreak, but for a craftsman like John Fullbright, there are few greater joys than carving emotion into music, taking a stab at that lofty goal of immortality through song. It makes him - and his fans - happy, and there’s nothing bad about that.
John Fullbright Songs Track Listing:
2. When You're Here
3. Keeping Hope Alive
4. She Knows
5. Until You Were Gone
6. Write a Song
7. Never Cry Again
8. Going Home
9. All That You Know
10. The One That Lives Too Far
11. High Road
12. Very First Time