This had already been a pretty amazing weekend for cool and unlikely covers, thanks to Saturday night's Bad Plus/Stravinsky festivities. But it got even better Sunday night, courtesy of the young Oklahoma singer/songwriter John Fullbright. Playing for a small crowd at Raleigh's Berkeley Cafe, he closed with Roy Orbison's epic "Crying" -- a song I never would have guessed Fullbright could pull off, given the operatic falsetto of Orbison's original. But Fullbright's raspy midrange howl worked perfectly; made the hair on the back of my neck stand up, even.
"Crying" was a great capper to a very fine set. Fullbright really is quite amazing, in that he writes about stuff that a 22-year-old really shouldn't be able to evoke (and he seems like such a normal dude offstage). But I think he's one of the best songwriters out there right now. At one point, he played two astonishing songs back to back, "Satan & St. Paul" and "Unlocked Doors," and he mentioned that he'd written both the same night; that was a pretty good night's work, I'd say. "Jericho" was another highlight. I only wish a bigger crowd had turned out, but so it goes.