JOHN Fullbright’s new album is simply titled Songs. Such unadorned directness is indicative of his musical purview, especially in the context of a live solo set.
John Fullbright - Oran Mor, Glasgow
With his acoustic guitar and harmonica holder, he’s every inch the archetypal US singer-songwriter. But therein lay the problem with his opening brace of material: he came across as just another mild purveyor of generic Americana. Despite having a strong voice with a pleasing hint of rasp, he’s yet to form an identity of his own.
The only guitar-based highlight was All the Time in the World: its chugging funk offered welcome respite from the set pattern of alt-country weepers. It also revealed him as a fleet-tongued harmonica player.
The second half of his set proved more successful. Swapping guitar for piano, he settled into a dusty groove a la Tumbleweed Connection-era Elton John. Every Fullbright song is reminiscent of something else – the manic Fat Man is a blatant Tom Waits homage – but his piano material is sporadically affecting.
The likes of When You’re Here and The One That Lives Too Far are touchingly heartfelt romantic odes, while new song, Stars, is an impassioned torch ballad about grief and recovery.
Fullbright isn’t looking to reinvent the wheel. He’s an unpretentious songsmith in the classic mould. But to succeed as a classicist, an artist must deliver distinctive, strong material. Otherwise they merely offer faint echoes of their idols. Fullbright has talent, but he could do with some character.
Seen on 02.06.14