Robbie Fulks is a bluegrass guy who started his career in bluegrass, but then waited until his 16th project to do a full-blown bluegrass album. Listeners of his Bluegrass Vacation will likely say it was worth the wait after one spin through the player.
Fulks has spent decades in the music business, best known as an alt-country and folk kinda guy. But his first full-time gig was with Special Consensus and having grown up with the music, he’s never lost the connection.
Bluegrass Vacation is a fun trip and the cover art of Fulks driving a dune buggy across a map with his mouth wide open and guitar hanging over the side gives it away. “One Glass of Whiskey” is a nice bouncy start and by the third track, “Lonely Ain’t Hardly Alive,” he’s reached down for a nice soulful number.
In the liner notes, Fulks writes about his early influences such as John Hartford and Sam Bush among other “freaky people,” and then gives them a tribute with “Longhair Bluegrass.”
While there really are no lags for the two-time Grammy nominated artist, “Backwater Blues” and then “Nashville Blues” with guest Tim O’Brien are among the best. “Let the Old Dog In” has great bounce as the album winds down.
Fulks and Compass Records rolled out plenty of bluegrass big guns to help—Sam Bush, Sierra Hull, Ronnie McCoury, Tim O’Brien, Alison Brown, John Cowan,Chris Eldridge, and Jerry Douglas all contribute.
It doesn’t always work out when artists crossover into other genres, but Fulks is the exception, mostly because he never really left. Bluegrass Vacation is a lot of fun and certainly begs for an encore.