John Fullbright and Matthew & The Atlas
“I have no doubt that in a short time, John Fullbright will be a household name in American music.” — Jimmy Webb
John Fullbright burst upon the Southwest music scene in 2009 with a stellar live album recorded at the Blue Door, the legendary venue in Oklahoma City. From his home in Okemah, Oklahoma—also the hometown of Woody Guthrie—Fullbright had already honed his
songwriting and playing skills to a degree that he was a favorite at festival campgrounds before he was even out of high school.
Quickly produced as a “calling card” for the 2009 Folk Alliance Conference, Live at the Blue Door went on to set sales records at WoodyFest, the annual folk festival honoring Woody Guthrie.
In the intervening years, Fullbright has opened for a host of folk and Americana names—including Jimmy Webb, Joe Ely, Kevin Welch, Michael Fracasso, and Steve Poltz—from Oklahoma to Europe and back.
With the 2012 release of From The Ground Up, Fullbright, still in his early twenties, has joined the conversation about the best new artists in music today. Firmly rooted in a variety of musical styles, he draws on what has come before, but without imitation. Forget labels when you listen to John Fullbright. He is not folk, not Americana and not pop, but possibly the best fusion of them all.
In From the Ground Up, Fullbright traverses an emotional and musical terrain that is extremely broad, showing equal acuity with tender ballads and songs that make you want to drive faster with the windows rolled down. Fullbright’s earliest songwriting heroes, Townes Van Zandt and Mickey Newbury, infuse this record, but so do Jimmy Webb, Randy Newman, and many of Fullbright’s songwriting compatriots from Oklahoma and Texas.
Fullbright co-produced the album—the photo on the cover shows him on the front porch of the house where both he and his father grew up—with the owner of 115 Studios in Norman, Okla., Wes Sharon, who also played bass on the album. Fullbright played many of the instruments on the album: all of piano and harmonica, almost all of the organ parts and much of the guitar work. Musicians from the legendary to the infamous lent their talents: Terry “Buffalo” Ware and Andrew Hardin added guitar, while Fats Kaplin played violin and steel guitar. Other musicians on the album are Giovanni Carnuccio III (drums), John Knudson (organ), Jess Klein (background vocals) and Ryan Engleman (guitar).
John Fullbright is a young man who finds love, beauty and pain in the here and now, and skepticism and disdain for those who would take advantage of the dreams of those hoping for a better world. That he can articulate his worldview with an almost otherworldly precocity makes his debut studio album, From The Ground Up, worthy of attention. From the fertile ground of Oklahoma, another songwriting legend may be blooming.
Matthew and the Atlas is Matthew Hegarty, Lindsay West, Harrison Cargill, Dave Millar and Tommy Field.
The sound they make together is a woozy, day-dreaming Americana, filtered through a distinctly English folk sensibility – with Hegarty’s extraordinary bruised and raw vocal the glue that binds it together.
The band came together when, in late 2009, Communion Records called Matthew and said they wanted to record an EP of his songs. It was the coldest of winters and so he rounded up some old friends and they hid from the snow in a candlelit studio in North London. When they came out it was still snowing, but they had a record – they called it ‘To the North’.
They decided to try and play these songs together live. It turns out that once they started it was pretty hard to stop – so they haven’t. Their first ever headline show was a sell out at The Lexington in London in April 2010, and since then they’ve toured the UK twice (once with The Shivers and once with Mumford and Sons) and played headline and support slots in some of London’s most iconic venues.