Album Review: From the Ground Up by John Fullbright
Very Good, Based on 3 Critics
AllMusic - 70 Based on rating 7/10
The album starts off on a high note with "Gawd Above," a greasy, bluesy battle between the Lord and the Devil. The horned one pops up again on "Satan and St. Paul," a loping lament that finds a more earthly protagonist pushed to the breaking point. The piano-led tunes "Nowhere to Be Found" and "Fat Man" seem to owe more to early Randy Newman than anything in the roots realm, rendering an effective contrast to the dominant dusty, alt-country feel of the record.
John Fullbright’s hardly the first songwriter to take God to task. XTC perhaps take the crown for the catchiest takedown with “Dear God” (“the wars you bring, the babes you drown / Those lost at sea and never found”), while Randy Newman brings his trademark jaundiced eye to “God’s Song” (“How we laugh up here in heaven at the prayers you offer me / That’s why I love mankind”). Dylan famously tapped into the anger of the Old Testament Yahweh when he sang “The next time you see me comin’, you better run” on “Highway 61 Revisited”.
One needn’t be a Fulbright Scholar to recognize that this first album from 23-year-old John Fullbright, an Oklahoma singer-songwriter whose hometown happens to be the same as Woody Guthrie’s (Okemah), marks him as a bright and versatile talent in Americana music. He avoids the pitfall that ensnares so many promising newcomers in this genre – however good their songwriting, they become monotonous because their rugged voices and bluesy country-rock electric-guitar arrangements (or forcefully rhythmic acoustic strumming) never vary. Fullbright, who began playing the piano at age five and only later learned guitar, avoids that.