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Albums Of The Week: Robbie Fulks | Bluegrass Vacation

The alt-country veteran takes his sharp-witted songcraft out to the holler for a spell.

THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE:Robbie Fulks’ adventurous spirit has defined a critically acclaimed 30-year career that has included 15 solo albums and two Grammy nominations.

He came to national attention as a defining artist of the alt-country scene in the 1990s, with releases on the Chicago indie label Bloodshot Records, North Carolina’s Yep Roc, and Los Angeles’s Geffen Records. While Fulks’ aversion to genre constraints and conventions has sometimes made him hard to pigeonhole, American country music, in the widest sense, is his home base — be it the country of Doc Watson, Bill Monroe, Merle Haggard, Bobby Charles or Mississippi John Hurt. For the last 10 years, he has focused on his writing and performing with homespun tales and acoustic instruments.

But while music has always been a part of Fulks’s musical vision, Bluegrass Vacation is his first purely endeavor in the field. Paired with a cast that features some of the brightest stars of the genre including Sam Bush, Sierra Hull, Ronnie McCoury, Tim O’Brien, Alison Brown, John Cowan and Jerry Douglas, the result is one of the most remarkable bluegrass albums of the century. In the end, Fulks plants his flag firmly in the bluegrass tradition, a genre that built the stepping stones Fulks walks on today.

He muses: “Electric guitars might give way to computers, as seems to be happening now, but the mountains will still be right there.” It’s abundantly clear that Bluegrass Vacation is more than just a musical dalliance for Fulks. He owns the music as much as it owns him and the listener is left hoping that this bluegrass vacation will end up becoming a staycation.”


Photo by Scott Simontacchi.
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