August 22, 2012 by Jay Minkin
I had the privilege to visit The Kent Stage a few weeks back and catch a young phenom from Okemah, Oklahoma that was traveling through town as the opening act for Shawn Colvin. Only twenty-four years young, this firecracker kid with a guitar and harmonica hit the stage and played a roaring set of original tunes with a delivery that showed shades of Ryan Adams and Tom Waits. So you may want to head down to your favorite record store and pick up a copy of From The Ground Up, the debut album from John Fullbright, so you can hear this promising singer/songwriter for yourself.
From the same hometown as the iconic Woody Guthrie, Fullbright grew up listening to records from his family’s diverse and treasured collection. When old enough to make the drive, John would head an hour west to Oklahoma City to The Blue Door concert club and see all the songwriters that played the venue. The club’s founder, Greg Johnson, was so taken by the young man’s talent after hearing him perform that he offered to manage Fullbright and help open doors with his connections.
Co-producing his album with Wes Sharon, From The Ground Up was recorded at Sharon’s 115 Studios in Norman, Oklahoma with Fullbright playing most of the piano, harmonica, organ, and guitar on the album’s 12 tracks. Additional players included Terry “Buffalo” Ware on electric guitar, Giovanni Carnuccio III on drums, and Sharon on bass. The opening number “Gawd Above” looks at the world through God’s eyes. Some songs like “I Only Pray At Night”, “Nowhere To Be Found”, and “Song For A Child” have Fullbright singing with just his piano accompaniment. Fats Kaplin adds some nice violin to “Fat Man”, a song inspired from a poem by Bert Lockwood of a wealthy and powerful man who pulls strings to further enrich himself as if he were a puppeteer. Kaplin lays in some beautiful steel guitar fills with Fullbright playing acoustic guitar on “Forgotten Flowers”. Craft songwriting and vocals shine in compositions like “Satan and St. Paul” and “Me Wanting You”. Some of the big, full band radio singles you should sample include “Jericho”, “All The Time In The World”, “Daydreamer” and “Moving” that sound great cranked up in the car with all the windows rolled down.
I can tell you that when I divulge my picks for Best of 2012, John Fullbright is sure to get a mention. What has traditionally been separated into categories of male, female, duo, and group awards … Fullbright may create a new category for himself as my “Rookie of The Year” selection.