First Appeared in The Music Box, May 2005, Volume 12, #5
Written by T.J. Simon
On Georgia Hard, Chicago’s Robbie Fulks has made his most straightforward country album of original material to date. While the disc isn’t exactly mainstream — Fulks is still too good for that — it’s an outing that won’t ruffle the feathers of Top-40 country radio enthusiasts, nor will it turn away his alternative-leaning base. Throughout the collection, Fulks adopts a homespun, storytelling style similar to that of Johnny Rivers or Roger Miller. The title track is the disc’s highlight, and it tells the tale of a guy who follows a woman to Chicago from Dixie only to discover that being down-and-out in the city is no day at the farm. If They Could Only See Me Now is a gentle acoustic number about a man marrying into a dot.com fortune only to watch it all fly away when he kills her in a fit of passionate rage. It’s classic Fulks — an earnest story with a twisted ending. In fact, the dysfunctional associations explored on this effort are infinitely more interesting than the ones on Couples in Trouble, his overrated study of bizarre relationships that was released in 2001.
Fulks’ lyrics have always gravitated to the clever and irreverent side, and Georgia Hard is no exception. On All You Can Cheat, for example, he tells the genuinely funny story of a motel that is used exclusively for infidelity. Problems arise, however, when Fulks tries too hard to be humorous and finds himself sinking into silly parody. I’m Gonna Take You Home (and Make You Love Me) is a dumb, novelty song that finds him putting on an inane, drunken hillbilly voice that wouldn’t have made the cut for Hee-Haw 30 years ago. Countrier than Thou might have been the disc’s best number, but it flies off the tracks at its midpoint when Fulks’ own vocal performance becomes ridiculous. Another demerit is achieved for the "wacky" spoken-word intro tacked onto the otherwise fantastic album closer Goodbye Cruel Girl. When it comes to zany country comedy, Fulks would be well-advised to leave the humor to Jeff Foxworthy.
Given Georgia Hard is generously long — containing 15 songs, which runs just shy of an hour in length — Fulks can be forgiven for occasionally succumbing to his goofier demons. The instrumentation throughout the album is top-notch thanks to weighty guitar contributions by Redd Volkaert and strong performances from Fulks’ own backing band. In the grand scheme of things, his missteps are small, and as a result, Georgia Hard very well may be remembered as one of the strongest releases of Fulks’ career. ˝
Georgia Hard is available from Barnes & Noble.
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2005 The Music Box