John Fullbright

John Fullbright – Songs [album review]

by Woody on May 28, 2014


I really dislike the Grammys as I believe it to be a vapid soul-sucking exercise that rewards shitty music more than quality. And while decent artists sneak in there every year, I would have never thought in a million years that a twenty-something from Woody Guthrie’s hometown would find himself in the fray with his debut. But that’s exactly what happened.

With some artists, I would be worried that they would get caught up in the nonsense. Soon you’d hear that he doing this giant expansive album working with all sorts of random big-name artists to generate exposure. With Fullbright, that thought never even entered my mind. I’ve seen him play a few times and had a short chat with him when I caught his set at Space last year. He struck me as someone so grounded and so fiercely dedicated to his music; that no one was going to dictate what he was going to do.

And with that comes his sophomore release, Songs. Songs is a stripped down affair with Fullbright’s guitar and piano typically the only backing he requires. A rhythm section pops up here & there and backing vocals are almost non-existent. Although when they do, they pack a punch. There is a subtle backing on the third track Keeping Hope Alive that lasts barely two seconds that adds so much to an already beautiful track – an absolute brilliant touch.

Write A Song is a brilliantly written track about making music. At a time when the American public celebrates made for TV pop heroes on crap shows like The Voice, Fullbright’s track comes at a perfect time. It’s as much a stream of concsiousness as it is a song. As I have said a million times and will say a million more, there are plenty of people out there with amazing voices. But the people that can write music that gets into your soul are few and far between. John Fullbright is certainly one of those artists and we are just at the beginning of his career.

Follow me on Twitter at @WoodyHearYa

John Fullbright is here

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John Fullbright has a new album coming out on May 27th via Thirty Tigers. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing John live a few times, including this last SXSW. His shows are dynamic and match his songwriting skills. Below is the lead track, Happy. Check it out and go see him live. Here is some other info on Songs.

If there’s a recurring motif that jumps out upon first listen to “Songs,’ it’s the act of writing itself. “When I discovered Townes Van Zandt, that’s when I went, ‘You know, this is something to be taken pretty damn seriously,'” says Fullbright. “You can write something that’s going to outlast you, and immortality through song is a big draw.”

The arrangements on ‘Songs’ are stripped down to their cores and free of ornamentation. Fullbright’s guitar and piano anchor the record, while a minimalist rhythm section weaves in and out throughout the album. That’s not to say these are simple songs; Fullbright possesses a keen ear for memorable melody and a unique approach to harmony, moving through chord progressions far outside the expected confines of traditional folk or Americana. The performances are stark and direct, though, a deliberate approach meant to deliver the songs in their purest and most honest form.

‘From the Ground Up’ earned Fullbright breakout critical acclaim and entrance into a community of songwriters whose work he admires. “I didn’t grow up around musicians or like-minded songwriters, but I grew up around records,” he says. “One of the most fulfilling things about the last two years is that now I’m surrounded by like-minded people in a community of peers. You don’t feel so alone anymore.”

Follow me on Twitter at @WoodyHearYa

John Fullbright can be found here.


When I moved to Kansas a year ago, I strategically found a home that was equal distance from downtown music venues and Lawrence, KS music venues on the campus of KU. It wasn’t the only factor in buying our house, but it was a factor nonetheless.

There hasn’t been a show since moving here that I’m more excited about than tonight at The Bottleneck in Lawrence. One of folk music’s brightest up and comers (still on the early side of his twenties), John Fullbright, is opening for HearYa Live Session alumni and pride of Santa Cruz, The Devil Makes Three.

Tickets are still available for those that want to dust off their boots and get their twang on. Head over here for the mp3s and vidoes from our DM3 live session.


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.