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From the Ground Up ()

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Young Oklahoma singer/songwriter John Fullbright's debut is everything you'd want an Americana troubadour's first outing to be -- striking, fresh, and full of promise. While he has clearly soaked up the sounds of country/folk godheads like Townes Van Zandt, Mickey Newbury, Guy Clark, et al, his musical palette includes other influences as well. The chord changes on some of the songs show more complexity than the basic harmonic template employed by master wordsmiths like Van Zandt and Newbury. And while it sounds like he comes from a solo-folkie coffeehouse tradition and it's easy to imagine most of these songs working quite well within the context of a solo-acoustic man-and-guitar set, there's a crack band at the core of most of these cuts delivering just the right amount of rootsy muscle without ever overpowering the arrangements or the songs themselves.The album starts off on a high note with "Gawd Above," a greasy, bluesy battle between the Lord and the Devil. The horned one pops up again on "Satan and St. Paul," a loping lament that finds a more earthly protagonist pushed to the breaking point. The piano-led tunes "Nowhere to Be Found" and "Fat Man" seem to owe more to early Randy Newman than anything in the roots realm, rendering an effective contrast to the dominant dusty, alt-country feel of the record. Throughout the album, whether he's coming off like a rootsy road dog or a post-Tin Pan Alley piano balladeer, Fullbright consistently displays a level of lyrical finesse that would be impressive in an artist with twice as many years behind him, which only bodes well for his future work. ~ J. Allen, Rovi Hide synopsis

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