“God help the troubadour who tries to be a star,” Phil Ochs once sang.
It’s a lament known to many a songwriter who’s strained to capture a bit of showbiz stardust only to find their hands and pockets empty by the end of the tour.
Robbie Fulks might appear tailor-made for such a hard luck tale, but Robbie’s never followed convention.
By the time he emerged in the 1990s as a solo artist, Robbie could already claim close to two decades of touring and songwriting. Early albums like 1996’s Country Love Songs and its 1997 follow-up South Mouth helped cement the staying power of alt-country as a genre. On these albums the cantankerous country rebel gained a reputation for breaking hearts with one turn of phrase, while eliciting sarcastic laughter in the next.
It’s Robbie’s gift – and curse – to be The Everyman and quite unlike anyone else all at once. Over the last 20 years he’s tinkered with his sound, switched labels, released an album of Michael Jackson covers, and accepted critical praise while courting small but rapt audiences.
Then in 2016 Robbie released Upland Stories. The clear-eyed report from flyover country found Robbie reaching a new peak with his songwriting and musical powers. Its songs careen from the sentimental tenderness of “Baby Rocked Her Dolly,” to the harsh realism of “America Is A Hard Religion,” to the haunted “Alabama At Night.”
Audiences got reacquainted and critics swooned. In the end Upland Stories garnered Grammy nominations for folk album and American roots song for “Alabama At Night.”
Swallow Hill is proud to present Robbie Fulks in Daniels Hall on Saturday, July 28 at 8 p.m. Don’t call it a comeback. He’s been here for years.
Tickets for this show go on sale Tuesday, May 1 at 10 a.m.