John Fullbright – From The Ground Up [Album Review]

by Woody on May 8, 2012

I remember the first time we all heard Joe Pug. Listening to his lyrics, I would have guessed him to be closer to my age than his true age of 23. The lyrics he put to paper belied his true age. The same is true of newcomer John Fullbright and his astonishingly young age of 21.

Fullbright hails from Okemah, Oklahoma – the birthplace of Woody Guthrie. And while it would be convenient to slap the “new Woody Guthrie” tag on Fullbright, that would be doing a disservice to him. Clearly inspired so many before him including Townes and Leon Russell, Fullbright puts his own stamp on American music and stakes his claim as an important voice to be heard.

“Gawd Above” leads the album off with a bluesy stomp and a first person look at how the good Lord above sees his constituents below. Let’s just say, I don’t think Fullbright will be paying a visit to The 700 Club any time soon.

I made the heaven and earth
I made the stars above
Is it too much to ask for a little love

So I’ll tip my hat to all of your creations
You can fly like birds
Destory entire nations
Go and curse my name with your last breath
If all I brought to your life was death
Now you’re all my own
All mine together
Will you sing my praise
Sing my name forever
I am Gawd Above, Lord God Almighty Mama

That is followed up by “Jericho,” a tune that could slip in on Whiskeytown’s Stranger’s Almanac and without giving you pause. It’s a mid-tempo number that is elevated by the simplest of flourishes – the intro of female vocals during the chorus. Her simple punch to the chorus makes the song truly majestic with voices blending like Adams and Cary. Brilliant.

“I Only Pray At Night” finds an introspective Fullbright alone with a piano. This is one of tunes that can cause a room to go deathly silent when played live. It demands your full attention.

That’s just three songs. There’s nine more left, all equally great in their own right. To say this this kid is on the fast track to success would not be going out on a limb. If you enjoy Joe Pug, Justin Townes Earle or Ryan Adams, then get From The Ground Up now. This is one of those stunning debut albums that immediately leaves you wanting more.


{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Ari May 8, 2012 at 7:34 pm

Wow – he is good. I Only Pray at Night is really a gem of a song.

Bill Martin May 9, 2012 at 3:24 pm

Great music. Bought the album. Thanks for the heads up hear ya!

Coop May 10, 2012 at 10:33 am

He is a phenomenal musician. But he’s not 21. He’s 24.

Woody May 10, 2012 at 10:53 am

Thanks Coop. Fact-checking has never been our strong suit. Appreciate you reading the site.

oz May 10, 2012 at 2:55 pm

I think he released a live album when he was 21 and this is the first studio LP.

oz May 10, 2012 at 2:56 pm

And I’m 34, in case you were wondering.

Tbone May 12, 2012 at 4:21 pm

At first I thought, “What does ‘Satan and Saint Paul’ remind me of?” Then I thought, “Oh hey, this kinda sounds like something Delta Spirit would’ve written before they decided to try to get on Top 40 radio.”

Then I just got sad about how bad Delta Spirit’s last album was…

This guy is pretty great though, hopefully this album will soothe the wound Matt Vasquez and company left on my heart.

Chad Haatvedt October 14, 2012 at 11:32 pm

I’ve seen John perform a number of times. He’s an amazing writer and musician. I first discovered him on Music Fog (I noticed you featured their recording of Satan and St. Paul in your review).

He does some awesome work with others too, such as Ray Bonneville, Jimmy LaFave, Radoslov Lorkovic, and others. Check him out on the piano backing Ray’s Nightwalker at Music Fog.

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