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CD REVIEW: Chris Fuller - Sangamon
By Chip Withrow - 08/05/2007 - 02:50 PM EDT

Artist: Chris Fuller
Album: Sangamon
Label: Jovian Records
Genre: Acoustic Folk/Rock
Sounds Like: Mike Scott, Van Morrison, Jorma Kaukonen
Technical Grade: 9/10
Production/Musicianship Grade: 9/10
Overall Talent Level: 9/10
Songwriting Skills: 9/10
Performance Skill: 9/10
Best Songs: Cold Below the Waves, Keep My Secret, Midnight Fog
CD Review: On Chris Fuller’s Sangamon, one hears the mournful sounds of the British Isles, the ragtime of the early 20th century, and the swagger of Delta blues. Fuller skillfully employs fingerpicked and slide acoustic guitar, ukulele and harmonica as the backdrops for his timeless, lyrically image-rich tales.

“Red,” “Widowmaker Creek” and “Dreams of You” occupy an old-time, blues-meets-Tin Pan Alley space. “Red” is the album’s intriguing opener (it certainly made me want to hear more), and “Dreams of You" is particularly well-picked.

“Sangamon,” “When the Land Is Dry, ” and “Midnight Fog” sound like the songs that migrated from Ireland and Scotland to the hills of Appalachia to become bluegrass. The lilting “Midnight Fog” is especially good – a catchy harmonica melody and a lovelorn narrator who seems to be riddled with some kind of guilty secret.

“Walking Blues” is a snaky blues, not the John Lee Hooker song of the same name but with a similar feel … only with wild lyrics and percussively strummed uke. The topical “Get a Room (Church and State)” is a more straightforward blues with a nice burst of harmonica.

My favorite at the moment is “Cold Beneath the Waves,” an acoustic take on the Chuck Berry story songs of the ‘50s. The words are Dylanesque – there might even be some allegory in lines like “Don’t be fooled by the blue eye of the storm/I’ve seen Lucifer in many different forms.” Another standout is the gypsy-like “Keep My Secret.” Chris’ wife Amanda plays atmospheric accordion, and Chris’ conspiratorial vocals and stings of slide guitar give this a sinister feel.

Upon first listen – and because of Chris’s vocal delivery – I was reminded of Mike Scott and the Waterboys, or Van Morrison’s folkier side. But the crisp sound of Sangamon is also akin to the work of acoustic pickers like Roy Book Binder and Jorma Kaukonen, guys who dig deep into Americana.

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