Gone Away Backward
It's fitting that in his current press bio, Robbie Fulks gets called "an alt-country genius" by Tina Fey. Like her, he's smart and funny, though on early discs he occasionally strayed into smart-ass territory. He has flown a bit under the radar as of late, but he deserves renewed attention with this top-notch outing. Gone Away Backward reunites him with Bloodshot (his first album for that label since 2001) and was recorded and mixed by the renowned Steve Albini. The aforementioned Albini helps keep things clear and sparse, with the focus on Fulks's literate lyrics and persuasive voice. An ace band of Chicago players accompany him, shining on haunting instrumental "Snake Chapman's Tune." Liberal use of banjo, fiddle, mandolin and upright bass ensure Gone Away Backward has a hard country-folk sound that's sprinkled with plenty of bluegrass ("Long I Ride"), making the "alt" tag wildly inaccurate here. "Imogene" is a tender, yet slyly ribald love song and "That's Where I'm From" is a moving six-minute ballad that showcases Fulks's storytelling skills. This is the 11th album from the now 50-year-old, and may just be his best.
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