Robbie Fulks 'Gone Away Backward' - Bloodshot

Back with the label he first worked with as an insurgent country artist Robbie Fulks latest album finds him in a relatively acoustic mode. Producer Steve Albini has kept the sound direct and raw. The songs straddle a country/bluegrass mode, although both styles of songs are delivered in a similar fashion and Fulks voice and delivery holds it all together. The songs are tales of those facing the struggles that life and love has thrown at them in this current century and in earlier times.

I'll Trade You Money For Wine, has a urgent bluegrass feel and the title sums up its overall theme. The realisation that how some of life's cards may fall and can dictate the way life pans out is expressed in the effective forthrightness of Where I Fell. That's Where I'm From is back to bluegrass and song that lauds the spirit of song (and other simple opportunites) over more monetary aspirations. It is the album's longest song at over 6 minuets but holds attention throughout. That theme is also echoed in That's Where I'm From, which details some of the values that have shaped him in his current outlook. When You Get To The Bottom has a more country feel though the delivery is still very much acoustic with a plaintive fiddle motif and some tight harmony singing.

There are a couple of instrumentals featured in Snake Charman's Tune, a melancholic fiddle lament, while Pacific Slope has a more some fast picked guitar that gives the song a more  vibrant energy. The album closes with some songs that again reinforce the somewhat dark and foreboding image on the album's cover Sometimes The Grass Really Is Greener finds Fulks ruminating on the choices he made during his career and where he feels his heart truly lies. The more gentle understanding of Guess I Got It Wrong shows an writer maturing and learning from all that has occurred in his life to date. The final tracks The Many Disguises Of God and Rose Of The Summer have a more traditional folk song elements that makes them feel more timeless and indeed could well have been played at any folk festival in the 60s.

 It is good to have Robbie Fulks back and with a label more sympathetic to his needs. However at this point he may well be playing to those who are aware of him and have followed him from his first album to this point, rather than being able to break through to a broader audience. He has not gone away even if he is looking backward which is something his fans can look forward to.