Country fulks itself
It would be fair to say that Robbie Fulks has a love-hate relationship with country music. He loves the music itself, he just can't stand the people involved with it.
Fulks first expressed his distaste for Nashville's Music Row in 1997 with "Fuck This Town," a bitterly comic adios to his brief tenure as a country songwriter for hire. On his new album, Georgia Hard, Fulks shifts his withering gaze toward the cosmopolitan phonies who put on cowboy boots, adopt fake drawls, and try to act, as the song says, "Countrier Than Thou." If that reminds you of anyone in the Oval Office, that's just the way Fulks likes it.
Son of a bluegrass aficionado and himself an avid (if iconoclastic) student of American roots music, Fulks explains country music's turn away from the dark, gritty subject matter of its past toward cheery sentimentality by looking at the music's current demographics. "Music Row figured out, just about the time I got there in the early '90s, that women were buying the records more than men, and that was their audience," Fulks says during a tour stop in Northern California. He adds that country's industry heavyweights subsequently decided that every song needed to be upbeat and depict men as sensitive and women as strong and self-determined. "It's condescending," Fulks says. "I think women can take all points of view in a song."
| Robbie Fulks |
Thu, Aug 11
Georgia Hard, Fulks' first album of new country songs in six years, finds him alternating between Roger Miller-esque flights into tongue-in-cheek cleverness ("I'm Gonna Take You Home and Make You Like Me," "Goodbye Cruel Girl") and Roger Miller-esque expressions of genuine pathos ("It's Always Raining Somewhere"). It also finds him offering a salute to the slick country music of the 1970s, possibly the most maligned era in the genre's history.
"It's really the only kind of popular music from the last century that explicitly singles out middle-class, middle-aged people in the lyrical voice," he says. "As a 42-year-old, middle-class guy in the suburbs, it got me in a way that it didn't so much when I was younger." •