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September 16, 2014
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A winning set by John Fullbright

By Steven Wine
AP (*)
Music review

John Fullbright, Songs (Blue Dirt/Thirty Tigers)

The 12 songs on John Fullbright’s Songs are so sturdy they need little adornment, and many are performed solo on piano or guitar, which makes them easy to underestimate.

That would be a mistake. These songs capture the world through the eyes of a 26-year-old, with all of its complicated contradictions. As such they’re modest and ambitious, bold and shy, intimate and grand. They’re conversational, confessional and confident, free of frills and full of good advice. As a bonus, one of them rhymes “Fauntleroy” with “La-Z-Boy.”

These songs have been performed in coffeehouses and at festivals, on a cruise ship and at the Grammys pre-show, where Fullbright’s studio debut competed against Mumford & Sons, Bonnie Raitt and others. Their descendants date to the 1970s, when singer-songwriters ruled the pop charts, and also the 1930s, when timeless tunes came from an Oklahoma troubadour named Woody Guthrie.

The singer here is another Oklahoma troubadour, and his topics include the price of love, the need for hope, the hazards of farm tractors and much more. His songs are sad and serious and wise and wonderful, well written, well played and well sung. Well done.

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