"Can't tell I'm country?/Just you look closer/It's deep in my blood," sings Robbie Fulks in "That's Where I'm From," a track from the new Gone Away Backward. But the Chicago artist's country soul shines through so clearly that it's hard to imagine anyone would miss it. With haunting fiddle, percussion and fingerpicked guitar backing up his sweet and raspy vocals, this album shows Fulks in a contemplative mode.
The songwriting is as topnotch as the music itself. Fulks' gift for lyricism, which can become a weapon when he's feeling cheeky, is geared toward subtly expressive storytelling and reminiscence here. From the instrumental "Snake Chapman's Tune," with its rich and muscular strings, to the soft and whimsical "Imogene," to the wise, up-tempo "Sometimes the Grass Is Really Greener," Gone Away Backward is aptly titled. It reflects Fulks' love for his roots and lessons learned from the road. It also proves he's an old soul as he looks back on a 20-year career with a sense of humor and passion for his art.