Label: Blue Dirt
After the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and many other majors have evaluated John Fullbright’s second studio album “Songs” with hymnical praise throughout, it’s Fatea’s turn to weigh in with their opinion and all we can do is get in line with all those acclaimed journalists. Everything is just so right on this album and the only thing the reviewer asks herself in utter confusion is why John Fullbright hadn’t been on her radar before. He is definitely one of the artists that you don’t want to miss when he is in town. He is touring intensely right now, in the UK, the States, the Netherlands and Denmark – that’s where I will catch him as its nearest to my home in Germany where he doesn’t seem to have a single gig yet.
The album “Songs” holds what it promises: Songs of varied instrumentation, pace and drive, songs full of emotion and passion, songs that speak to you directly and reach your heart straight away. This album denies diversions, it’s straight forward and sometimes even seems to prefer shortcuts. It keeps things simple and convinces with this simplicity of beauty and wisdom. John Fullbright is a virtuous piano player that knows how to play his instrument confidently in all genres and what is more, in a way that is totally at one with everything he is trying to express vocally. This is to say, the piano is not just an accompaniment but is in complete unity with what the singer Fullbright tries to bring across: “She knows” and my favourite “When you’re here are good examples for this.
With his guitar playing there doesn’t seem to emerge the same unity, which might explain why his songs on piano seem to gain more recognition in life performances as well as on recordings. This is not to say that I wouldn’t love his guitar accompanied songs like “Keeping Hope Alive” or “Write a Song”. They might not be as emotionally loaded but sound more laid back which makes a catching contrast their wonderfully profound lines like “Live a life you want to live…God knows fear is not afraid”.
As to Fullbright’s vocals: There is a little scratch in his vocals most of the time which makes listening somehow exciting. I am sure he is fully aware of it and uses it on purpose as he can also sing without this little crack and sometimes, in tender ballads like “She knows” or “Very First Time” does so.
This diversity of quiet songs on guitar or piano and opulent full band songs like the cracking opener “Happy”, the epic favourite of mine “When you’re here” and the wonderful “The one that lives too far” create the enormous listening pleasure that this album provides.
Fullbright’s songs sound so naturally right and because of that so familiar that one is tempted to wonder whether one had heard them before. They sound as if they have always been a part of the musical world or like a long forgotten ground-breaking collection of songs that have been re-discovered. “Songs” have been placed next to Neil Young’s and Joni Mitchell’s albums written when they were about the same age as Fulbright now, 26. It’s the compelling mix of fundamental songwriting qualities, relentless musicianship and haunting performance they have in common.