Crystal Lake Listening Room’s Robbie Fulks returns to bluegrass roots

Chicago-based artist Robbie Fulks’ music has changed through the years as he’s gone from honky tonk to a bit of pop and alternative country and back to his roots of folk and bluegrass.

But he’s not about the labels. The only label that really fits his music is authentic.

“It’s like I’m presenting myself and my experiences and the music that I’ve learned to play, and it’s something you don’t hear by turning on the TV or the radio,” he said. “And I’m hoping there’s some value in it.”

Fulks will perform at 8 p.m. Sept. 12 in the Listening Room at Lakeside Legacy Arts Park, 401 Country Club Road, Crystal Lake. Tickets cost $20 at or 815-455-800 or $25 at the door.

The soulful singer, known as a gifted guitarist and songwriter, has fans ranging from musical artists he’s performed with throughout the world to those who see him regularly at Hideout Chicago – where he has a residency – to celebrities, such as Tina Fey.

He’ll be joined in the Listening Room by Robbie Gjersoe, another guitar-playing singer, as the two perform an acoustic set of Fulks’ songs.

“It’s like a back-porch, mind-blowing revelry…,” Fulks said with a laugh, “…I don’t know.”

Having released “Gone Away Backward” in 2013 – an album about Fulks’ roots in Pennsylvania and Virginia and the decline of the small-town and rural America in which he was raised – Fulks hopes to release a new album, likely titled “Upland Stories,” in four to five months.

The album in many ways will be an extension of the last one, he said, reflecting on classic country themes of lost love and American problems.

“Now I’m doing something that’s closer to what I was doing when I was 10,” said Fulks, who grew up listening to the honky tonk music of Hank Thompson, Ernest Tubb, Doc Watson and others.

“The folk and bluegrass I listened to as a kid is what I’ve come back to,” he said. “It seems the most firmly lodged into me.”