Staff Pick: Robbie Fulks journeys through the American South on Upland Stories

Andy Downing, Columbus Alive

Robbie Fulks has long made his home in Chicago, but the singer and songwriter's latest,Upland Stories, is shaped by the years he spent living in North Carolina, part of the northern region of the Southern U.S. sometimes referred to as Upland South.

Songs, in turn, find the musician venturing from Bear Bryant country ("Alabama at Night") to his old stomping grounds on "Fare Thee Well, Carolina Gals," a folksy, fiddle-laced ballad far more at peace than its narrator, who recounts wilder days spent "sniffing that glue at the Northgate Mall." Fulks, a vivid songwriter, inhabits a range of characters throughout, including a heartbroken widower ("Baby Rocked Her Dolly") and a man trying (and failing) to make peace with his past before departing this earth on "Never Come Home."

Musically, the album hews to roots and Americana, with Fulks veering between banjo-fueled folk ballads ("America Is a Hard Religion") and more spirited turns like "Katy Kay," the type of heel-stomping, old-time bluegrass jam one might expect to encounter on the "Pappy O'Daniel Flour Hour."

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