When Brandon Fulson writes and sings about the country, he’s talking about the real country. It’s not that teenage dream of pick-up trucks, beer and endless parties. It’s a place where “hillbilly heroin and alcohol,” snake handlers, two-bit grifters, hookers and people just generally making bad decisions are more likely to be neighbors as those happy-go-lucky characters who populate modern commercial country radio.
It’s a place where Fulson grew up and still lives. Fulson’s new album, “Dark Side of the Mountain,” should be an eye-opener for anyone who has never visited rural Tennessee and Kentucky. It’s not all dark. Fulson’s song are filled with humor and heart.
“I always felt like music should reflect where you’re from,” says Fulson. “"If it's about country people it should be about what they actually go through, not the stuff they say represents country music. The images on television don't match where I live.”
Fulson was raised in Cumberland Gap, Tenn., just across the border from Middlesboro, Ky., and found his musical legs by performing country and rock covers in rowdy little bars in the area. Along the way, original songs began to slip into the mix alongside the Waylon Jennings and Lynyrd Skynyrd. Sometimes people in the crowd recognized that the songs were about them – an honor that was received with varying degrees of appreciation.
In 2013, during a short stint when Fulson was living in Knoxville, Tenn., Fulson reacted to a Blake Shelton comment deriding classic country and its fans by writing and recording an angry reply called “Old Farts and Jackasses.” The video of Fulson performing the song, posted only a few hours after Fulson first read Shelton’s comment, went viral and earned him the love of fellow fans of classic country music around the world. It was around that same time Fulson began gaining a reputation in the Knoxville music community as one of the region’s best songwriters, appearing on live radio programs, including WDVX’s “Blue Plate Special” and “All Over the Road” shows, the Knoxville festival Waynestock and other events.
Fans of both classic country and rock music will find plenty to love on “Dark Side of the Mountain.” It’s loaded with real life tales and characters – from “Middlesborough 1974,” which was inspired by his father’s late night car chase, to “Three Dollar Wine,” about a former band member’s trouble-magnet girlfriend, to “Eatin’ In the Yard,” about a local family’s lottery win that changed their lives.
Recorded at Knoxville’s Arbor Studios with producer/engineers John T. Baker and Gray Comer, “Dark Side of the Mountain” includes appearances by some of Knoxville’s music greats, including Baker, Comer, Mike McGill and Andy Pirkle of The Barstool Romeos, guitarist Barry “Po” Hannah, multi-instrumentalist Greg Horne and drummer Vince Harris.
There’s nothing phony about Fulson. There’s no cowboy hat, no silly swagger and that accent? It’s real. Maybe it’s a little darker than you’re used to.
“It’s not that I want to glamorize the dark side,” says Fulson. “I just want to represent real life."
Written by Wayne Bledsoe