“Sweet! Cheap! Live!” reads the cover of Robbie Fulks’ new double disc live album; Fulks even calls live albums rip-offs during the acoustic set. It’s a bit of the self-effacing humor that fans of the alt-country/neo-traditionalist country/roots rock artist should find familiar, and it’s certain that Fulks wants his live album to be more than the standard of sub-par recordings of old songs.
There is some new material, the best of which is probably the upbeat “Fixin’ to Fall,” but for fans of Fulks’ acerbic humor “I Like Being Left Alone” might be the one. Fulks also plays some covers including the Carter Family’s “Away Out the Old Saint Sabbath” and Cher’s “Believe.” Yes, he covers “Believe,” and it’s not entirely clear how much of a joke it is because he and his band mates give a very convincing performance.
Of course, most of the songs come from other Robbie Fulks albums, and they give a nice overview of his earlier work – pulling mostly from his first two Bloodshot releases. For whatever reason, there are no songs present from his other Yep Roc release “Georgia Hard.” That’s kind of a shame because that’s a really strong record, but it does make “Revenge” a nice introduction to Fulks’ earlier work for those who might already have “Georgia Hard.”
The album is actually two different live performances. The first disc, called “Standing,” is a full band electric set, and the second, “Sitting,” is acoustic with more minimal accompaniment. Both are well paced and provide plenty of fun. “Sitting” is probably the better disc because of the intimacy of the set, especially since it retains plenty of silliness with songs like “I Wanna Be Mama’d,” “I Like Being Left Alone,” and “That’s a Good Enough Reason.”
You’re not going to find any revolutionary new takes on Fulks’ catalog, but the live performances more than hold there own to the original recordings on songs like “Rock Bottom, Pop. 1” and “Busy Not Crying.” For die-hard Robbie Fulks fans, this album is a no-brainer, and it makes great sense for new or casual fans as well since it’s the closest thing he’s got to a best of. The inclusion of “Cigarette State” is especially nice, as it has only appeared on compilations until now. At $15.99 for both discs, I guess it really is “Sweet! Cheap! Live!”