It’s been 8 years since John Fullbright last released an album. For a Grammy-nominated artist headlining festivals, that’s an eternity. He has a new record coming out later this month, called The Liar, and it’s clear he put all that time to good use. He embraced a new band in the studio and developed a looser style that reflects his embrace of the Oklahoma music community. His songwriting has likewise cut a broader swath across the musical spectrum.
Long time Fullbright fans will no doubt want some of his just-a-man-and-his-piano content, and it’s still here. The CD leads off with Bearden 1645, a self-reflection on how playing piano is his safe place from the world’s perils. It starts off with a Billy Joel piano man style, but then takes an unexpected twist as Jesse Aycock lays in a sweet slide guitar solo. Safe To Say substitutes organ in as the keys and adds a touch of gospel ala Ray Charles to a number about being in love. Lucky is a sparingly arranged, tongue-in-cheek observation about how beauty can have a downside.
The title track is a good example of why Fullbright is often compared to fellow Oklahoman, Leon Russell. It’s a piano rock number again featuring Aycock on guitar and addresses the not uncommon Bible Belt choice of being Christian without necessarily believing in God. Poster Child also has a touch of gospel in a commentary on mental illness. Social Skills is a fun little number, despite the topic, about using booze and pills to overcome shyness.
John Fullbright was already known as a terrific songwriter, self-contained in his performances. He’s obviously opened up in the last 8 years and added a sense of casualness to his songs. That combination is a potent one. Whether you’re a longtime Fullbright fan, or new to him, The Liar should be on your playlist.
About the author: I’ve actually driven from Tehatchapee to Tonopah. And I’ve seen Dallas from a DC-9 at night.