Robbie Fulks – The Tuning Fork October 10, 2017


The Americana Fest marches on! Day 3 at The Tuning Fork was a slightly lower key affair than Sunday night. Instead of nine musicians crowding the stage, as The Eastern did, last night was an evening of duos.

The night began with Lisa Crawley joined by Australian singer-songwriter Ben Mastwyk. The lanky Australian added more of an Americana flavour to Lisa’s set, with the two of them harmonizing nicely.

Robbie Fulks is one of those guys who I’ve been aware of for years, but never really paid that much attention to. Perhaps that’s because, after seeing him perform, he really should be experienced as a live act and this was his first time in New Zealand.

Fulks lives in Chicago but grew up in North Carolina, a state that has informed his songwriting to a large degree.

It’s clear he loves country music…the more traditional kind made by Hank, Waylon, Willie, Buck and Johnny and has little time for the contemporary stuff, which he expressed his disdain for.

Fulks act is as much spoken as sung, with long, entertaining stories leading up to his songs.

We heard about his great-aunt, a banjo player, who was widowed and remarried. Apparently the young Fulks was more impressed with his aunt’s hubby than her banjo pickin’, writing a song called Aunt Peg’s New Old Man.

While introducing his Grammy-nominated song, Alabama At Night, he regaled us with tales of attending the Grammy Awards ceremony and discovering new-fangled artists such as Beyonce, Bruno Mars and Lady Gaga.

His final extended monologue described returning to North Carolina for his 30th high School reunion only to discover that most of his old schoolmates had aged horribly.

The songs themselves ranged from comedic to bittersweet.

My favourite was I Just Came To Meet The Man, a song that managed to be at once funny, creepy and heartbreakingly sad.

If you’ve seen Loudon Wainwright lll perform, you’ve got an idea of what Robbie Fulks is all about.

Sharing the stage with Fulks was fiddle virtuoso Shad Cobb. Cobb provided harmony vocals and some excellent fiddlin’, particularly during set closer, The Cigarette State. While Fulks is tall and lean, Cobb is considerably shorter and the two of them, playing side by side, aided in the comical nature of the act.

When the duo performed Fare Thee Well Carolina Girls for the encore, they jumped off the stage mid-song and ambled out into the audience, singing and playing their way to the rear of the venue, essentially fading off into the night.

Marty Duda

Click on any image to view a photo gallery by Michael Flynn:

Robbie Fulks set list:

  1. Goodbye Virginia
  2. Every Kind Of Music But Country
  3. The Buck Starts Here
  4. I’ll Trade You Money For Wine
  5. Alabama At Night
  6. Aunt Peg’s New Old Man
  7. I Push Right Over
  8. Katy Kay
  9. I Just Came To Meet The Man
  10. I Just Lived A Country Song
  11. The Banjo In The Holler
  12. Let’s Kill Saturday Night
  13. Cigarette State
  14. Fare Thee Well Carolina Gals