Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Robbie Fulks/Linda Gail Lewis [extended]

  • Together [Smash, 1969]
  • International Affair [New Rose, 1991] A-
  • Country Love Songs [Bloodshot, 1996] *
  • South Mouth [Bloodshot, 1998] *
  • Let's Kill Saturday Night [Geffen, 1998] *
  • The Very Best of Robbie Fulks [Bloodshot, 1999] Choice Cuts
  • You Win Again [Exile/Pointblank/Virgin, 2001] Dud
  • Georgia Hard [Yep Roc, 2005] A-
  • Revenge! [Yep Roc, 2007] **
  • Happy [Boondoggle, 2010] *
  • Gone Away Backward [Bloodshot, 2013] A-
  • Jura [Bloodshot, 2015] A-
  • Upland Stories [Bloodshot, 2016] A
  • Wild! Wild! Wild! [Bloodshot, 2018] ***

See Also:

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Jerry Lee Lewis & Linda Gail Lewis: Together [Smash, 1969]
[CG80: Rock Library: Before 1980]

Linda Gail Lewis: International Affair [New Rose, 1991]
The long-ago costar of the lowbrow gem Together registers more twang per syllable than prime Duane Eddy, belting and screeching like a flat-out hillbilly--Jeannie C. Riley, say. But though I'd love to hear her "Harper Valley P.T.A." (or "Fist City," or "9 to 5"), she's Jerry Lee's sister, wild-ass before she's anything else. She doesn't ignore country on this band-centered studio job, but except for Billy Swan's "I Can Help" ("If your child needs a mama we can discuss that too"), the standouts are from Wolf-Justman, Dave Edmunds, Bob Dylan, all of whom should be damn proud. Covering "They Called It Rock," she gets up to "Someone in the newspaper said it was shit," and instead of rushing discreetly on to the next line she draws out that last word with the relish of a gal who's waited to sing it all her life. A-

Robbie Fulks: Country Love Songs [Bloodshot, 1996]
honky tonk gems without the (choose one) soul/voice/context (soul) ("(I Love) Nickels and Dimes," "The Buck Stops Here") *

Robbie Fulks: South Mouth [Bloodshot, 1998]
In the great tradition of Dwight "Little Man Whose Name Is Saul" Yoakam (and Steve "Jap Guitar" Earle), he vows to deliver Nashville from the dread "faggot in a hat" ("Dirty-Mouthed Flo," "Fuck This Town"). *

Robbie Fulks: Let's Kill Saturday Night [Geffen, 1998]
"For a life of devotion the death blow He deals/We owe Him only hatred, but God isn't real" ("God Isn't Real," "Pretty Little Poison"). *

Robbie Fulks: The Very Best of Robbie Fulks [Bloodshot, 1999]
"Roots Rock Weirdoes" Choice Cuts

Van Morrison/Linda Gail Lewis: You Win Again [Exile/Pointblank/Virgin, 2001] Dud

Robbie Fulks: Georgia Hard [Yep Roc, 2005]
Vocally, he's neither here nor there--by the standards of Jay Farrar, Trace Adkins, but by the standards of Trace Adkins, Todd Snider--and as a writer he's caught between Tootsie's Orchid Lounge and Columbia University, where he's spent more time. He has a lit major's love for Music Row convention: "Some people say a real hard woman's good to find," or the evolution of the "they" in "If They Could Only See Me Now" from the parents who didn't want him to marry above his station to the kids he can't see after he murders their mama. Because he doesn't have the physical equipment to put his formal hyperbole over the top, his novelties connect first--"I'm Going to Take You Home (And Make You Like Me)," featuring his wife Donna, and the first recorded use of the word gemutlichkeit in a country song, and "Countrier Than Thou," featuring an Oh! Brother fan from Boston and GWB from Austin. But on this record the writing is so consistent that eventually it makes emotional sense--the cheating songs and the drinking songs and the faux gothic songs are set pieces he puts his gumption into, softened by a pastoral nostalgia that's so lyrical you want to take a ride in the country yourself. A-

Robbie Fulks: Revenge! [Yep Roc, 2007]
"Springfield, Salt Lake, Champaign-Urbana/Farmer City, Fairbanks, Gary Indiana/West to east Portland all across the land/We're never home. We're gone. What is it that we're on?/We're on the road" ("The Cigarette State," "The Buck Starts Here") **

Robbie Fulks: Happy [Boondoggle, 2010]
Michael Jackson covers front to back, and why the hell not, but n.b.--the tribute comes easier when he isn't compelled to negotiate the funk ("The Girl Is Mine," "Mama's Pearl") *

Robbie Fulks: Gone Away Backward [Bloodshot, 2013]
Lest you suspect that Fulks has fallen victim to loser mythology, "Where I Fell" at track two leads to "That's Where I'm From" at track four. First one's a politico-economically sapient tale of drinking won't kill you and rust never sleeps, the second the reflections of a night-school whiz who's climbed from dirt roads and double-wides to two cars and a picket fence--he's sure he did right, proud even, but he also has regrets. You think maybe Luke Bryan would cover this diptych? How about either half of it? Me neither. Oh well--Fulks sings better than Bryan anyway. A-

The Mekons and Robbie Fulks: Jura [Bloodshot, 2015]
Recorded on the Scottish title island for Record Store Black Friday with jaunty pessimist Fulks sitting in for heroic depressive Tom Greenhalgh, this sold out pronto and is now download-only. Although Fulks fits in, Greenhalgh is missed, and from Rico Bell's resigned "Reason walks with rabid dogs gnawing at its hands" to Sally Timms's dolorous "But he can't have a harboring here," the performances lack the full-bore joy-in-bitterness their cult fetishizes vinyl for. Yet in the end, it is a Mekons record. It's been quite a long time since that wasn't enough. A-

Robbie Fulks: Upland Stories [Bloodshot, 2016]
On his second straight "folk" or even, oh Lordy, "Americana" album, you can tell the producer is once again, oh Lordy, Steve Albini, not just because five tracks have drums on them but because those drums signify tougher arrangements in general. The approach remains quiet, thoughtful--"Needed," the pocket autobiography of a horny youth turned corny man that's the best song Fulks ever wrote, travels on a single voice and two guitars. But note that the only time the album hauls out one of those reassuring finger-picking jams is also the only time it turns comic--the no-sex-please-we're-country "Aunt Peg's New Old Man," an old man who wields his long bow to show his nephew-in-law's Scruggs banjo how music's s'posed to sound. Elsewhere the m.o. is subtler. Hear how Brazilian viola textures the unresolved James Agee tribute "Alabama at Night," how "Baby Rocked Her Dolly" deploys six pieces to evoke a lonely widower reminiscing in his "old folks home," how Jenny Scheinman's fiddle underlines the adjective in "America Is a Hard Religion." The nearest thing to a throwaway is "Sweet as Sweet Comes." Bass and organ provide all the weight it needs. A

Wild! Wild! Wild! [Bloodshot, 2018]
The acerbic Fulks tailors his material to the "sunny, high-humored attitude" of Jerry Lee's little sister, who was way more fun acerbic herself on 1991's alt-rock International Affair, not to mention 1969's consanguineous Together ("Round Too Long," "Till Death," "Memphis Never Falls From Style") ***