Live at the Blue Door
No need to beat about the bush, John Fullbright is a songwriter of simply extraordinary talent, who has produced a collection of songs that deserve to be heard across the planet. And he did it at an age when most young men are still struggling to find their own identity, let alone to express it so literately and poetically.
A native of Okemah, Oklahoma – the hometown of Woody Guthrie – Fullbright recorded what he had never expected would become his first album one evening in Oklahoma City in 2009 and rushed it out as a showcase for a music convention. He was 21 at the time, and many of the songs were written when he was still in his teens. Yet what he has produced is a collection of work that no songwriter could be ashamed to have written in the course of an entire career.
From the agonies and joys of a young man who suddenly finds himself a father in “New Arrival” to the struggle of families left behind in wartime in “Post War Blues” – written by Fullbright when his brother was sent overseas for the first time – the songs are complex and yet tackle universal themes of love, loss and seeking to understand an unfair, ever-changing life. “Tombstone” is Fullbright’s tribute to Guthrie, and also to his own grandfather, two of the biggest influences on his life.
After 13 Fullbright originals, the album ends with a cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” – and one that in its simplicity and raw strength holds its own amid the hundreds of versions of that song circulating in the world.
Fullbright peforms solo throughout with only a guitar and harmonica (he can also play piano and accordion), proving that he is also an accomplished musician – he spent a year playing in Mike McClure’s band before going solo. The recording obviously has some rough edges, but it certainly fulfils the original aim of showcasing the extensive talents of what must be one of the great hopes of American songwriting. We can only hope that the studio album – and the UK tour – will follow shortly.
Release date: February 28.