The "Twang Zone" isn't what it used to be, and to paraphrase Field Marshall Martha, that's a good and a bad thing. Nashville has come a long way from the era that sired rebels Willie, Waylon, and Guy Clark -- it's even more a superficial slick-hit factory than before. Merle Haggard, once the hero of the far right (for his "Okie From Muskogee" and "I'm a White Boy"), now tours with Bob Dylan. Then there's Robbie Fulks.
Fulks is an earthy intellectual, a die-hard country fan who respects -- no, loves -- classic 1960s and '70s Nashville songcraft (writers Harlan Howard, Roger Miller, etc.), yet refuses to be limited by it. He'll cover obscure gems that country radio would never deign to play, while his originals address his fondness for a certain hitmaker ("That Bangle Girl") and chide the pretensions and excesses of the alt-country/Americana posse ("Roots Rock Weirdoes"). Fulks is a country player who can rock, and while his songs are often witty, they're also substantial and heartfelt, far from being here-today-gone-tomorrow lampoons. (Mojo Nixon or Weird Al, anyone?) No doubt about it: Robbie Fulks puts the "tree" back in country.