Robbie Fulks's misleadingly titled new album, The Very Best of Robbie Fulks (due in January on Bloodshot), is in fact a decade-spanning collection of oddities and rarities meant to tide fans over as Chicago's best singer-songwriter-satirist--who parted ways with Geffen this year--works out new material and decides how to release it. But like most of his output, it's a masterful mix of sincerity and withering humor, of genre hopping and genre-transcending hooks, and it beats most proper albums by his "peers" by a country mile. Fulks takes a spot-on jab at rockabilly revivalists and "our brothers in neoswing" ("Roots Rock Weirdoes"), gets giddy with Kelly Willis on a honky-tonk feuding song ("Parallel Bars"), constructs cinematic atmospherics ("Gravid and Tense"), strums trad bluegrass ("Hamilton County Breakdown," from his days in Special Consensus), injects a weepy heartbreaker ("I Just Want to Meet the Man") with characteristic pervertedness ("I just want to know the stranger who / Has put his poison inside of you"), and flatters Susanna Hoffs by imitation ("That Bangle Girl"). No one is safe from his wicked wit: he leaps into the snake pit with "White Man's Bourbon," an ironically intended tasteless romp about liberating the libido of an African woman with booze ("Well, don't stand there strutting like a dumb giraffe / Don't pull out your cock unless you want her to laugh / Don't say a word, just hand her a carafe / Of the sweet corn liquor on your belt"), and then, in his tongue-in-cheek liner notes, takes a poke at Bloodshot's hyperbolic anti-Nashville stance, claiming the tune was taken from the compilation "Nashville, We Will Slice Your Putrid Cunt to Ribbons: Insurgent Country Vol. 6." On an ordinary night, I'd recommend this show--which also features the Waco Brothers and Anna Fermin's Trigger Gospel--without hesitation, but since it's New Year's Eve, admission is a whopping $99 at the door, $80 if you buy a ticket by December 24. For that you get an open bar, a champagne toast, "party favors," and Mexican food--which rarely makes a graceful departure from the body even when its path isn't lubricated by a barrel of hooch. Friday, December 31, 9 PM, FitzGerald's, 6615 Roosevelt, Berwyn; 708-788-2118. PETER MARGASAK
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Jim Herrington.