Tuesday, January 13, 2004

South mouth

So five years after I bought it I finally got around to listening attentively to Robbie Fulks' South Mouth, the 1997 Bloodshot release by the Chicago alt-country notable. And damn. Can that guy write a country song.

I think the first couple of times I threw the disc in I was put off by Fulks' voice, even though upon reflection it is perfectly fine, even great at times. But I've always preferred male country singers with gigantic voices, like Dave Dudley and Conway Twitty, and I initially found Fulks' tenor rather thin in that affected, nasally alt-country sort of way (yes, the way I sing on many of the tracks on the Junkers' Hunker Down CD).

But Martin and I are working on this show that's going to include, among other things, the Fulks/Kelly Hogan duet "Parallel Bars," from Fulks' 2000 release The Very Best of Robbie Fulks. So I listened to that song over and over, and finally the realization hit me: this is terrific. For one thing, Fulks knows the power of the snappy opening line, and "Parallel Bars" has a doozie: "She's got a temper like a Texas storm, my will's strong as brick." "Parallel Bars" is a stellar country duet, funny in the way Twitty and Loretta Lynn's "You're the Reason Our Kids are Ugly" is funny, and Fulks and Hogan belt the hell out of it.

So my new fondness for "Parallel Bars" prompted me to spin up South Mouth, and again: damn. I won't bore you with a track-by-track analysis, but I will observe that just as good first lines for songs are important, so are good first lines for albums, and South Mouth has a great one in the opener of "Goodbye Good Lookin'": "It's hard to know what's on angel's mind."

And I'll also affirm that the one track that leapt out at me the last time I played South Mouth, "Forgotten But Not Gone," is one of the saddest sad country songs I've heard, and if you've heard my song "Warning: Country Music," you know there's nothing I like better than a really sad country song.

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