Self Release/Bloodshot Records
Surprisingly Emotional Re-Imagining of Bob Dylan’s Street Legal.
Mr Robbie Fulks was one of my earliest ‘gateway acts’ into what we now lovingly call Alt. Country; and while loving most, if not everything he’s released since The Very Best of in 2000 or thereabouts; he’s never released an album that wasn’t as imminently listenable as they are interesting; and that’s a fair summation of his latest album; 16 – a brave re-imagining of Bob Dylan’s Street Legal.
Before I start; I bet good money that I’m the only reviewer NEVER to have heard the original album!
Seriously …… not a single note or word; His Bobness just leaves me cold …… but I do know he can write a damn fine song.
16 opens with the delicately beautiful Changing of The Guard; and the biggest surprise is that Fulks plays it absolutely straight as a dye. No tongue cheek. No sly wink to the side of the stage …… it’s obvious this early that he loves these songs; and while putting his own unmistakable stamp on them; he’s also paying homage to his musical hero.
In my humble opinion; like Roger McGuinn before him; Robbie Fulks has a voice that’s a perfect match for Dylan’s intricate musings.
Is Your Love In Vain is a big ole production, with Fulks dragging as much pathos as possible out of every single couplet; and on True Love Tends To Forget we find girly backing singers and a cool horn section, which somehow makes this sound like Van Morrison, if our Northern Irish friend could actually enunciate his vowels.
Yet with We Better Talk This Through, Fulks and band attempt to rock the bloody doors off!
Even the first time I heard these songs I knew that they were all very special indeed; especially the dark and brooding slice of contemporary Alt. Country New Pony; and Fulks delves really deep to do these lyrics justice and manages with ease and grace.
As we all know Bob Dylan is a poet at heart; and that comes across all to well in the bedazzling Where Are You Tonight (Journey Through Dark Heat) which has more than a nod to the 60’s Beat Poets and even Sir Leonard Cohen too, in the way Fulks taps out a hypnotic beat with his vocals.
My copy doesn’t include a list of the players behind Robbie Fulks; but it’s constantly obvious that they are all A Lister’s and the production is pin sharp from start to finish.
As per usual it’s never easy to choose a Favourite Track as there are no ‘obvious singles’ as we used to say; this is as ‘Grown Up’ an album as I or you will hear this or any other year.
But; there are two songs that captured my attention that first night and again today; Baby Stop Crying is everything my Bob Dylan loving friends tell me I should like about his work; but it’s taken the delicate touch of Robbie Fulks to now, possibly get me on board in the way he makes it sound Alt. Country and Jazz Lite at exactly the same time!
The other; which I have decided is the actual RMHQ Favourite Song is ……… Senor (Tales of Yankee Power); again we go back to the poetry of Dylan’s lyrics to get at the heart of this almost Gothic tale; and when you unravel the story (I think I have, but I could be wrong) this could possibly be one of Bob Dylan’s Masterworks; but only because Robbie Fulks allows us in with his almost Edith Piaf style handling.
This is quite unlike anything I’ve heard from Robbie Fulks before, but possibly because of that I’ve sat enthralled all afternoon just ‘listening’ to it; which is a rarity in this office.
Released November 1st 2019
Buy 16 here http://www.robbiefulks.com/new-products/16