John Fullbright’s The Liar

By Brian Rock

Oklahoma singer/songwriter John Fullbright returns after an eight-year hiatus with his majestic new album, The Liar. The former AMA Emerging Artist nominee picks up right where he left off on 2014’s critically acclaimed, Songs. A songwriter’s songwriter, Fullbright works with chords and lyrics like Michelangelo worked with marble. He crafts timeless testaments to humanity’s struggle to find itself and its relationship with the Divine.

The title track pulls you in and never lets go. The song starts with drums, smoldering Blues guitar, and grand piano chords as Fullbright sings, “Better days are coming, but the nights are all the same. You wake up in the morning. You take a sip of shame.” With a pleading tone of desperation, you expect him to pray for strength to overcome his weakness. And he freely admits his weakness, singing, “If I could swallow pride like I learned to swallow wine, I’d be doing so much better. I could walk a straight line.” But instead of asking for deliverance, he pleads, “God grant me whiskey, and I won’t lie no more.” And that line changes everything. From a simple song about a man asking for help, it turns into a psychological case study of a man seeking more of the very thing that’s destroying him. A stark commentary on humanity in general, it shows that the things we think we need are very seldom what we actually need; and that when we lie, the only person we’re lying to is ourselves. There have been whole movies that had less character development than this one song. And Fullbright’s voice hits you like a velvet hammer as he sings it. Part Billy Joel, part Bruce Springsteen, with a healthy dose of Tony Bennett, if it’s possible to be raspy and silky at the same time Fullbright achieves it. From the chord progression to the lyrics, to the voice, to the crescendo of the chorus, this is as good as the craft of songwriting gets.

So where can you possibly go from there? How about invoking the spirit of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” on the song, “Bearden 1645.” Like a baffled David composing for his Lord, Fullbright sings, “This chord progression is my favorite because it always resolves. It starts a little sad from the get-go and gets happier as it evolves.” And of course, the song follows the lyrics. Again, building to a crescendo, he sings, “Everybody needs something they can cling to, a place for happiness to bring you. I got a piano I can sing to.” Recalling the simple joys of playing piano in his childhood home in Bearden, OK; he reminds us all to take time to do the things that bring joy to our lives. Continuing to chase his bliss on “Gasoline,” he captures the feel of Guy Clark’s “Worry Be Gone,” as he chases the more combustible joys of love. “Social Skills,” addresses the problems of those who need a little liquid courage to follow their heart. A playful, jangly, Alt-Country rhythm masks the internal turmoil of those whose, “hands get clammy, and your tongue gets fat. You’d love to say this but instead you say that… So, I drink this gin and I take these pills just because I don’t have social skills.” But for those who succeed in overcoming their fears to connect heart to heart with someone, Fullbright croons a Hammond organ tinged, lover’s ballad on “Safe To Say.”

“Paranoid Heart,” takes a more Springsteen-esque approach to love as he cries out, “I will never speak your name if it’s not out of love again.” “Where We Belong,” explores love from a Country perspective, capturing the sonic feel of Webb Pierce’s “There Stands The Glass.” “Unlocked Doors,” moves precariously from love’s warm embrace to those first tentative steps toward love. A weepy slide guitar accompanies Fullbright as he asks, “If I’m found in front of yours with a broken heart and nothing more, would you open up that door and let me in?” The song, “Lucky” is a piano ballad that explores the consequences of love gone wrong. Like J. Geils Band’s “Angel In Blue,” Fullbright explores the psyche of a woman who’s given up on love. Singing, “There’s a darkness in a broken heart that fights off every dawn and staves away each place to start to heal and carry on;” he describes a heart so broken that it no longer wants to be healed.

Rounding out his contemplations on love, Fullbright delivers an emotional tour de force on, “Stars.” Capturing the exquisite agony of yearning for your immortal beloved, he sings, “I’ve loved and I’ve lost love. I’ve found out that love was just God Almighty. And that love burns brightly just like stars up in heaven to remind us that love means that nobody dies alone.” Poignant and powerful, Fullbright sings a hymn to our universal connectedness and our yearning to reawaken to that connection.

Brilliant from start to finish, The Liar establishes John Fullbright as a worthy successor to Kris Kristofferson, John Prine, and Leonard Cohen.  |  fb  |  buy

Brian Rock

Brian Rock

Brian was raised gypsy style, moving every other year until well after college. As friendships proved to be temporary, Brian found a constant companion in music, wearing the grooves off Beatles and Dylan albums before moving on to Lyle Lovett and Dwight Yokam. Living so often in flux, he has come to value music and lyrics of lasting quality. Not moved by trends or fashion, he is drawn to timeless lyrics and soulful rhythms. Although now settled down, Brian still expresses his gypsy spirit through his writing. He has co-written songs with musician friends he’s met along the way, including several contributions to the 2012 ICMA Album of the Year, Family Album. Brian also writes children’s books and poems, including the Children’s Book Council featured title, The Deductive Detective.
Brian Rock

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