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Thursday, Oct. 17, 2013 12:01 am

A true Fulks hero

Robbie Fulks with musicians plays the Bedrock 66 Live! concert series at the Hoogland on Friday, Oct. 18 with the Old Fashioneds starting at 7:30 p.m.
The latest piece of provocative songwriting and innovative instrumentation from Chicago-based musician and artist Robbie Fulks, Gone Away Backward, received critical and fan acclaim for the folk-bluegrass playing and the honest portrayal of characters that has supported and populated many of his best works. Engineered by the near legendary Chicago sound man Steve Albini (he’s worked with Fulks since 1986 on more than half of his accumulated recordings), the album should sit among the best of Robbie’s output.

What lies beneath the surface of a good sounding record that plays well is the incredible depth of a creative, artistic spirit. You should listen for yourself and do a career spanning look-see of Robbie Fulks. While wondering at the vast and immense collection of funny looks at life, intuitive reaching for understanding and stark, actual realism within his songbook, feel and find the underlying current within the stellar musicianship and descriptive words that gets his work to a degree only attained through many years of proven, consistent, sustained creativity.

Dang it, I’m gushing again. Maybe we should talk about his fun covers, always a hit at live shows, of ABBA’s, “Dancing Queen” or Michael Jackson’s “Billy Jean” or that parting shot of a biting, original song aimed at Nashville, Music City, USA called “F**ck this Town.” Maybe “Roots Rock Weirdos,” his hilarious ode to some of his most ardent followers of the 90s, reveals more than some would want to know about Robbie’s view of humans at work being themselves. But rather than disclaiming our claim of his incredible abilities through stories of enlightened, enigmatic performances and ridiculously, riotous recordings, these items only seem to enhance his story.

Fulks’ decades-long adventure in making music may appear to be genre-jumping and category-denying, but it’s actually all been going the same direction with the same functioning purpose. He’s searching to compose engaging songs and ways to portray them the best at the time they are produced. You move on then and do it again later, hopefully selling enough or at least getting enough attention to continue to do it until the artist is unable to anymore. That’s the way it is done and the way Robbie Fulks has done it and why I call him a hero. It’s not easy plowing ahead and sustaining the work, but that’s the only choice for some.

“There are certain advantages to not being rich and famous. I don’t have managers and agents to keep me going,” Fulks said in our recent chat. “I think the whole point of this is to explore and not worry about having a career to advance yourself in the public eye. It’s about making good work.”

And so he does.

This Sunday we celebrate an anniversary at the Brewhaus. The venerable downtown bar opened in 1994 as the first of the new wave of downtown drinking and entertainment establishments. I’ve made a mathematical memory error for years now, always celebrating my events there as if I had started in 1993. But the light came, the darkness lifted and I’ve been shown the error of my ways and next year we will celebrate completing 20 years of live music at the same venue. But please come celebrate this Sunday as we begin the 20th year of yours truly at the Brewhaus nearly every Sunday at 7 p.m. with guests Murder of Crowes. Thanks to Mike Parkes for the steadiest job I’ve ever had, to Geoff Ryan for the promo posters (and good playing) and to all who’ve played, worked, drank, danced, dreamed and come to enjoy and listen over the last couple decades. See you at the beautiful Brewhaus in lovely downtown Springfield.  

Contact Tom Irwin at


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