The great Bob Marley once famously said, “One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain.” Maybe to best understand its healing powers, our souls have to reach depths from which melodies, grooves and lyrics of hope flow and offer us our only salvation. True to the title of his extraordinary debut album, Robert Fulton has been a Witness to difficult times and most challenging circumstances life could throw his way. They broke him for a while, but the re-emergence of his long set aside musical passions drove him to not only survive, but thrive. Drawing on his love for rock, blues and soul, he creates an enduring testament to the resilience of the human spirit and the redeeming power of music.
In just a few short years, the heartfelt, brutally honest New York singer-songwriter with a million and one stories went from down and out to working with legendary producer Jack Douglas (Bob Dylan, Aerosmith, John Lennon, Cheap Trick) creating his masterwork at Sunset Sound Recording Studios and United Studios in Los Angeles. Everything in that creative environment felt like a long way from the time he formed his first rock band on Long Island, signed to his first publishing agency in NYC at 19 and worked with a bunch of legendary musicians and producers throughout his 20s. Marriage, divorce, a house fire, a stretch of homelessness – you name it, it got in the way of the music and blotted out those youthful dreams. Yet now, the Universe was finally going his way. He was developing his brilliant tunes with a rock and roll master, in a realm that felt like home, doing what he was always destined to do.
Jack Douglas agreed to produce Robert’s album upon hearing the artist play three songs for him on acoustic guitar, “No Regrets,” “You and Me” and “New York City” – which together create the emotional core of Witness. The singer wrote the intimate acoustic-guitar driven “No Regrets” on a train going up to Boston, reflecting as he looked out the window. He was thinking about the ups and downs of his life, feeling a vague sense of missing home, and realizing that the only way to move on is to focus on the beauty of things you take forward even when things end tragically. The edgy soul rocker “You and Me” offers a deeply spiritual reflection about being exhausted from running his whole life “in prison within myself,” reaching out to God and declaring that “love is all we have.” A sense of wistful, pure pop magic infuses Robert’s love letter to “New York City,” which rolls like an invitation to take a brisk walk as he reflects on beloved areas of Manhattan. “All these New York stories make us who we are,” he says. “We all have a deck of cards that we’re handed. I don’t know how I got through it. I hurt and music is the one thing that cures.”
Throughout the ten tracks, Robert offers glimpses into that healing and ultimately life affirming process, with a powerful emphasis on the yearning to belong which connects us all as social-minded human beings. The set opens with the gritty blues and soul influenced “One Woman Man,” a blunt expression of the singer being pissed off in his frustrating search for a partner who is loyal and honest. The bridge reflects the longing in his life: “This world, a thousand miles an hour/Might as well just hold onto one another.” The track features Jack on harmonica. “She’s Cold” taps into a classic brassy soul vibe, with Robert lamenting the shallowness of women who come on as real but who quickly show their darker intentions.
Taking the completely opposite view of women, the beautiful, easy rolling acoustic gem “Shine” is a beautiful ode to his ailing mother, filled with gratitude yet a tinge of regret for time lost in their relationship over the years. After two bluntly spoken, blues tinged relationship songs, “Why We’re Through” and “Man on the Side,” Robert wraps the collection with another beautiful ode to the importance of family, the rock and gospel infused anthem “Sister Brother.” He sings about how the bond of loved ones can overcome anything: “Life is just a monster/Better off holding one another/Sister, brother.” The singer says, “Maybe I was just a delusional kid, but to me, those early memories with my family, between the ages of 5 and 7, were part of the best period of my life. I lived at my grandparents’ house and the extended family always got together. I felt safe there, and ever since, in a sense, I’ve always been searching for home.” Though it comes earlier in the tracking, “Soul to Soul” expresses that sentiment beautifully – it’s a haunting acoustic song of desperate yearning to find someone in whom he could find a true and lasting home.