South Mouth: Alt-Country Firebrand Robbie Fulks Returns

courtesy of Bloodshot Records
Robbie Fulks has something to say about Nashville: "Fuck this town"
It's been interesting to watch the career transformation of Robbie Fulks.

The Chicago picker and writer grabbed some notoriety -- and a decent alt-country cult following -- after his frustrations with trying to "make it" in Nashville in the mid-'90s led to his did-he-really-say-that tune, "Fuck This Town."

The entire No Depression nation screamed a big "Hell, yes" to Fulks' wry observations on his 1997 album South Mouth.

Hey, this ain't country-western

It's just soft-rock feminist crap

And I thought they'd struck bottom back in the days of Ronnie Milsap

As far as things around Nashville go, nothing much has changed. But fast-forward almost two decades and things have definitely changed for the former musical bomb-thrower. Asked what his kids think of dad and his South Mouth album, Fulks just laughs.

"Sometimes when I walk into the room, it's like they all drop into these fake comic voices from Hee-Haw," he says. "Country is so alien and horrible to them. They're more into bands like Phish, you know?"

But whether his kids like it or not, with each of his dozen albums the former Columbia University student has for the most part moved steadily back towards his earliest professional musical roots as a flat-picker in the bluegrass outfit Special Consensus. His latest, 2013's Gone Away Backward, is more country than anything coming out of the Nashvegas machine and vastly removed from the current bro-country bullshit. When it comes to recording traditional country music, Fulks stands near the pinnacle of the art today.

"I grew up in Pennsylvania and North Carolina in a musical family," Fulks explains. "I like a good rock song, I like blues, I like good music. But that old time music is what is in there way down deep with me."

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Jon Harvey
Jon Harvey

Saw him open for Ben Folds Five many years ago. Was an outstanding show.

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