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Robbie Fulks at the roadside

REVENGE • Robbie Fulks

The genius of Robbie Fulks might be truly daunting, if he weren't so funny. The devil inside him has a very humorous way of emerging. Although the Nashville tribute song "F**k This Town" made him famous in and out of Music City, his blogworthy hijinks with Ryan Adams and, more recently, power pop kings Fountains of Wayne, are now cyberlegend. If you haven't run into this last item, here's a clip of Robbie's song "Fountains Of Wayne Hotline," about an aspiring songwriter stuck in the studio trying to perfect his hit in progress, who calls the hotline for advice. It's unbelievable. I just got off a phone interview with FoW's Adam Schlesinger, and they certainly found it extremely amusing.

But then, he consistently is. He is a fierce and fluid picker, a powerful and elastic singer, a theatrical comic, and an expert songwriter. It's a wonder his tenure on Music Row didn't yield any hits when he set his mind to that, and like too many others, they're buried in some publishing vault, no doubt. Crypt, I mean.

But again on that last brilliant release, Georgia Hard, Fulks amply demonstrated the masterful way he's got with a Country song. The part of the story that stood spotlighting was the rambunctious and inspired live show, and that's what's front and center on the new double CD set, Revenge. Hillbilly songs don't get much better than "Fixin' to Fall" and "Busy Not Crying," so those are two of the tunes we include, to seal your fate, on the Listen page. And Nashvillian guest fiddler Casey Driessen has never sounded more spontaneously combustible than he does on that former cut. But this crack band to a man is slammin. Both crack bands, I mean--disc One is an electric band, with smokin' Grant Tye leading the proceedings on electric guitar. His flat top counterpart on the acoustic second disc, Rob Gjersoe (along with the prodigious playing of the artist) also provides a lot of memorable six string moments. From the acoustic disc, we cannot resist clipping Fulks' cover of Cher's "Believe."

The level of execution and the pristine mix allows one to forget, until the applause explodes, that the record is cut live--at The High Dive in Champaign and The Black Orchid in Chicago. When I look around in Music City, I don't currently see a lot of what could be called Country music geniuses. But this guy certainly fits the bill. • Frank Goodman

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