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Robbie Fulks | 13 Hillbilly Giants (Boondoggle)
Note the political usage of the term Hillbilly as opposed to Country. Hillbilly was the pejorative name for pre-WWII country music and Fulks has reclaimed it here, to distance himself from the mulch of Nashville to a time when Country music really came from the country, embracing all its parochial eccentricities and stripped down values. Thirteen covers of songs written by mostly obscure songwriters, the avowed intent on the sleeve is to rescue and re-promote these marginalised artists and, overall, Fulks succeeds. Opening with the brisk, rollicking instrumental Southern Comfort and closing with the moving drunkard's lamentation of Bury The Bottle With Me, Fulks covers the gamut of 'hillbilly' styles in between. Bill Anderson's Cocktails is a real gem, "Cocktails tore up my family / Cocktails tore down my home" Fulks sings, detailing the slow seduction of alcohol, one of his favourite themes. Next up is I Wanna Be Mama'd, Fulks taking the novelty number and turning it into a genuinely disturbed piece of Oedipal frenzy. The music is all snappy, clean, pre-Countrypolitan country, ably produced by Steve Albini with some superb guitar and fiddle playing. The responsibilities of family and fidelity are explored on Family Man and Act Like A Married Man while Knot Hole is a delirious celebration of the joys of voyeurism. Burning Fire is Las Vegas period Elvis, brimming with sex and fury while Dolly Parton's Jeannie's Afraid Of The Dark is transformed from the sentimental to the existential. Perhaps the only real flaw here is that there aren't enough songs with the gravity of Bury The Bottle or of Robbie's own compositions, but there's always his new album to look forward to for that. In the meantime this is a satisfying cornucopia of cornpoke craziness that will send all you Indie kids screaming into the streets.

Stav Sherez
CWAS #8 - Summer 2001

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