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May

2012

John Fullbright – A Troubadour on the Rise

By Kezzie Baker. Posted in Blues, Folk | No Comments »

John Fullbright, Woodyfest 2011, Okemah, OK

“I have no doubt that in a very short time John Fullbright will be a household name in American music.” – Jimmy Webb

“[At SXSW], this young Oklahoman’s name was on everybody’s lips.” – American Songwriter

 

In a graveyard on the north side of the small rural town of Okemah, Oklahoma, where 23-year-old John Fullbright was raised (and still resides) are two tombstones marking the graves of two very different men.  One is on the east side of the cemetery; the other on the west. In between the two is where Fullbright says he’d like his own tombstone to be placed. Why? Because the two tombstones bear the names of the two most influential people in his life – his grandpa  and Woody Guthrie.  It is the subject of a song Fullbright wrote called “Tombstone,” one of the standout tracks on a live recording of a concert he performed three years ago at the Blue Door in Oklahoma City bearing the simple title of Live at the Blue Door.  It was not promoted nationally, but it was an attention-getter for those who heard it (it set sales records at the 2009 Woodyfest, the annual folk festival honoring Woody Guthrie), and Fullbright has continued to promote the album through a heavy touring schedule with his shows steadily gaining him a growing fan base one gig at a time.

The recording project was simple – a one-man show with just a voice, a guitar, and a harmonica, but lest you are thinking (like I was) that this by definition spells ‘boring’,  think again.   I was surprised at the depth and fullness that is generated by this one-man band and captured in the live recording.  Thirteen of its 17 tracks are Fullbright’s own compositions, and he writes surprisingly insightful and mature lyrics that belie his youth (he was a mere 21  years old then, but had already become a favorite at outdoor music festivals before he was out of high school).  He is able to create quite a sound all by himself, slapping the guitar strings with such fervor that the lack of a drumset is not even noticed, and gives a unique vocal delivery that makes the listener stand up and take notice.

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