John Fullbright Growls Like Hayes Carll, or Vice Versa
At last, the promise we've always seen in John Fullbright is signed, sealed, delivered and certified in his first full-length studio album, From the Ground Up. Having seen Fullbright solo and duo the last two years and loving the starkness of his windblown Leon Russell Okie plaint, hearing him with a full band behind him is an ear-opening experience.
Who knew that the young Okie could growl like Hayes Carll?
The album certainly serves more notice of what we've been saying about this guy since we first saw him at a writers-in-the-round at Mucky Duck a few years back: He's a songwriting genius. Bar none.
Mentored by the likes of Jimmy Webb, Fullbright can open a vein with tunes like "I Only Pray at Night" or "Me Wanting You," and "Satan and St. Paul" is filled with Townes van Zandt-isms galore like "I could use another twenty years / To fix the last fifteen." He stands toe to songwriting toe with Carll, Jason Isbell and Joe Pug when it comes to wise wordsmithing.
We caught up with him in Okemah, Oklahoma, where he was packing his stuff for a run to Houston.
Rocks Off: We've seen you several times and may not have noticed it, but on the record you seem to have an unexpected sort of Hayes Carll growl.
John Fullbright: Maybe Hayes has a John Fullbright growl.
RO: Another thing we hear is a Leon Russell thing, both vocally and in your piano playing.
JF: A lot of people tell me that. I'm not saying I stole any licks from Leon although, of course, I've listened to him for a long time.
RO: You have that same dry, Oklahoma timbre that Leon has, and that kind of cracking-up thing on the high notes sometimes that works but you can't really say why it works.
JF: So what you're saying is I have a really shitty voice, I guess.