'The South Western Jackson Browne'
I hate to compare musicians to other musicians but sometimes it's just inevitable.
Last year, John Fullbright quietly released one of the albums of the year with 'From The Ground Up'
The young man from Oklahoma produced a debut of sublime songs and played the majority of the instruments himself including guitars, piano & organ. The album garnered much critical acclaim and gained some heavyweight fans including Whispering Bob Harris who featured many of the songs from the album on his radio shows. And it resulted in a Grammy nomination.
So, I was as surprised as the rest of the music fraternity when John announced he had album number 2 ready to go midway through 2014. Was it a case of having too many songs from the Ground album or was he riding the surge of creativity? Thankfully, it's the latter.
I've made the comparison with Jackson Browne and I think it's a good one. If you look at Jackson's first few album, you have the same kind of wistful observations - a young man so cynical and seemingly downtrodden but always with hope in his eyes and his soul. It's captured perfectly with the song The One That Lives Too Far. Close your eyes and you can almost hear Jackson Browne singing it.
Having toured both the US and Europe extensively in support of his debut album, it's evident that John has honed his skills and his voice is even stronger on this album.
John keeps to the same template of using the acoustic guitar and piano to build his songs.
The production keeps the album simple and lets the songs breathe. When the song requires just a guitar or piano, that's exactly what it gets. When it requires a broader palette, then John expands his sound with electric guitar, organ and keyboards.
photo courtesy of The Standard
The album's second track, When You're Here is an almost gospel tinged piano ballad that would not seem out of place on a Jackson Browne, Neil Young or even Elton John album. The piano rises and falls and is joined by some beautiful Wurlitzer and subtle electric guitar. It really IS that good. It proves that John is not just a troubled troubadour peddling his wares - there is depth to this man.
photo courtesy of Folkradio.co.uk
There are two longer songs on the album which sum up the whole approach and strength of this sophomore album from John. The first is All That You Know. It's just John and a rather lovely electric piano motif, the song is almost Hymnic. If you heard it in a church service, you wouldn't be surprised but it has such a quiet strength and power it just captivates right from the start.
photo courtesy of MPR/ Nate Ryan
The other blockbuster track on the album is the 7.33 minute High Road. It's John at his absolute best singing about love and redemption - it's Springsteenesque in it's intensity and highlight's John's pleading, almost breaking vocals. It's probably the best vocal performance on the whole album.
The album finishes with just John on his piano.
I don't want to give too much away to take away from the joys of this album. Suffice to say that if you bought From The Ground Up then you've probably already got this album but if you haven't, then go out now and invest in one of the best talents to come out from America for a long time.
Twitter - @johnrfullbright