John FullbrightSongs(Blue Dirt/Thirty Tigers)4.5 stars Neil Young was 24 when he released After the Gold Rush. Joni Mitchell recorded Blue at 27. Years from now, after it stands the test of time, John Fullbright’s Songs could take its place in that same pantheon of hallowed musical masterpieces. This is not irrational hyperbole spewing from a fangirl’s fingertips.
John Fullbright's 2013 debut, From the Ground Up, earned a Grammy nomination for best Americana album. Its follow-up deserves to do at least as well. With its 12 hushed and intimate tracks stripped back to the bare essentials – often just Fullbright's voice and guitar – the emphasis is on the strength of the songwriting (and, on Write a Song, the process itself).
John Fullbright is a songwriter. Yeah, a lot of folks write songs, and some of those songs are pretty good, and some of them are big hits, and then some of them go nowhere at all commercially, but are still good songs, maybe just waiting for the right person to sing them. But not everyone is a songwriter, even if they write good songs now and then, at least not the way Fullbright is a songwriter.
Marked a new voice in Americana music following his Grammy-nominated From the Ground Up, John Fullbright has streamlined his approach on his latest album, Songs. Taking a sharp turn from the front porch roots of his debut, Fullbright draws his focus on love and lyrics, leaving both bare for inspection on this personal collection of songs. Such transparence is no more evident than on the requiting “She Knows”, with Fullbright cataloging the ways in which a lover is able to manipulate the narrator’s heart to “bleed on command.” Showing he is not above self-reproach, Fullbright contritely details his emotional shortcomings on “Until You Were Gone” with its after-the-fact admittance of love.
For a wallow in obsessive love, it’s hard to top “Your Love Is Killing Me” on Sharon Van Etten’s fourth album, “Are We There” (Jagjaguwar). Its opening drumbeat echoes from deep down or far away; organ chords suggest hymnlike devotion, and a lone guitar note only illuminates the ….
John Fullbright Songs (Blue Dirt) Songs: not quite a sophomore slump, not quite a triumph. Following up 2012's Grammy-nominated studio debut From the Ground Up with morose, piano-based material, 26-year-old John Fullbright still demonstrates that he's got songwriting down cold. Ice breaker "Happy" feels anything but, while "Until You Were Gone" manages to sound simultaneously full of longing and oddly dispassionate.