The quintessential songwriter’s songwriter—literally revered by those who practice the craft and a fairly minor presence for everyone else—Robbie Fulks is so good that it hurts. So deft and grounded with language that it can sometimes take a few listens to notice how deft and free he is with the materials of music, Fulks is simply a curve-blowing talent as a writer. Maybe that’s why you’ve never heard of him. Maybe a cloaked conspiracy of industry string-pullers, representing the pooled interests of the decorated Americana songwriting elite, assembled with the singular purpose of keeping this cat obscure.
Or maybe it is something else. I once described Fulks’ major label coming out, 1998’s Let’s Kill Saturday Night on Geffen, as an attempted moonshot that fell sputtering in a cornfield. Someone was trying to mint a new Mellencamp, but this was the wrong candidate in the wrong getup. Fulks apparently saw it too. His follow-up, a modest collection of brand new songs on the decidedly un-Geffen-like Bloodshot label, was titled, with a little jaded good humor, The Very Best of Robbie Fulks. Since then, his records, all on various genre labels, have been so many and so fine that his genius eventually just bullied the industry into its grandest recognition—a pair of Grammy nominations in 2016 for the Steve Albini-produced Upland Stories.
Fulks has played this region frequently, and not even the bigger rooms. He returns to headline the 15th annual Livestock Music Festival on Saturday, August 26 at Livestock Headquarters at 124 Bob Hall Road in Bovina Center. Fulks jumps on as the headliner of an already well-stocked Americana lineup. Tickets for this one and a half-day festival are a modest $30. For tickets, directions and a wealth of useful information, visit http://www.livestockfoundation.org.