John Fullbright Leads a Trio of Rising Oklahoma Songwriters
Vicki Farmer/Courtesy of Artist
Texans are a fortunate group of folk music fans. We have legends and emerging artists that have either called the Lone Star State home at some point or are firmly entrenched here, primarily playing and making their artistic livings here so that we have more than ample access to their words.
One of Texas' best-kept secrets is that its proximity to Oklahoma is such a perk. What's that, you say? Well, let us not forget that none other than Woody Guthrie, the iconic folk singer and activist, hailed from Okemah. Since Guthrie's day, we've also been able to enjoy the music of a wide array of Okie writers from Jimmy LaFave, Bob Childers and J.J. Cale.
Speaking of Okemah, another powerfully insightful songwriter has emerged from Bearden, a tiny speck of a town with only 140 residents that lies just a few miles from Okemah. 26-year old John Fullbright has already earned himself a Grammy nomination, and he leads a trio of emerging songwriters who hail from just north of the Red River.
!n December of 2012, Fullbright caught the music industry completely off guard when he was nominated for the Grammy for Best Americana Album, alongside established chart-topping groups such as Mumford and Sons and the Avett Brothers (though the styles of Fullbright and those acts are hardly similar). As a result, Fullbright has reached scores of new fans across the country, playing storied halls and large festivals along the way. His upcoming album, Songs, is due May 27th, and it's hotly anticipated to say the least.
Though Fullbright quietly began gaining steam after releasing a live album in 2009, the release of 2012's From the Ground Up sent him into rarified air for a so-called new artist in terms of folk and Americana star status. A mix of southern rock and tear-jerking numbers about the connection of family, Ground Up is a record that showcases a writer who's mature beyond his years. Now a song from the new album, "Happy", a deceptively sad tune with jangly acoustic guitar, whistling and an up-tempo bounce, only serves to confirm that Fullbright's promise isn't a flash in the pan. This kid is the real deal.
The 28 year-old, Tulsa-based Moreland isn't a rookie by any stretch of the strings. Indeed, he started playing in punk bands 15 years ago. But it is the more lyrically focused roots music from his past couple albums that have forced people to take serious notice. Counting Rachel Maddow and the men of Lucero as fans, Moreland perked a great deal of ears in 2013 with his absolutely flawless In the Throes LP. Three of Moreland's songs even landed on the grizzly motorcycle gang drama Sons of Anarchy. In "No One Gives a Damn About Songs Anymore," Moreland offers up an unlikely anthem that's as damning as it fun to listen to. Complete with his dusty vocals and insightfully sad lyrics, "No One Gives a Damn" sums up Moreland's "curse" as he bares his scarred soul, singing, "I heard truth is what songs are for/Nobody gives a damn about songs anymore."
The freshest face of these three, the 21-year-old native of Purcell already has to deal with lazy, if not unwarranted, comparisons to Fullbright. His self-titled album from last year is a sonic mixed-bag full of gems. A somber, acoustic one-man confessional this record is not. Thanks to his ability to belt out burning brimstone, as well as bring things down a notch in order to draw the listener intimately close, Millsap expertly displays his agility around a number of tunes. Make no mistake, Millsap's no secret. Yesterday, he was announced as one of the nominees for "Emerging Act of the Year" for this year's Americana Music Association Awards, and he'll spend the summer touring with Emmylou Harris. After that, he'll be on an overseas tour with Old Crow Medicine Show. All of a sudden, we're not feeling so great about how we spent our time when we finally traded in our fake IDs for legit ones.