Robbie Fulks, one of Chicago’s most talented and most entertaining musicians, is playing at the Hideout every Monday night in February. After missing week one of Fulks’ residency, I caught his performance last night, an evening of lovely duets with another terrific Chicago singer, Nora O’Connor. The two sat on chairs and played acoustic guitars, with Fulks’ fingers plucking fast runs of bluegrass notes while O’Connor played rhythm chords. O’Connor’s no slouch on guitar, as evidenced by her playing in the Blacks, but she was modest about her abilities Monday. At one point, when Fulks said, “Take it, Nora!” she responded with a sarcastic, “Please!“
Fulks and O’Connor played some old-timey bluegrass and gospel tunes, such as “The Lost Indian” and Flatt and Scrugg’s “Take Me in Your Lifeboat.” Of course, they played some of their own songs as well — a couple of recent Fulks songs and a couple of oldies, plus some of the best tracks off O’Connor’s excellent (and thus far only) solo record, 2004’s Til the Dawn. And some cool covers: Fulks taking the lead on George Jones’ “The Flame In My Heart,” and O’Connor singing M. Ward’s “Helicopter,” Fleetwood Mac’s “That’s Alright” and Ketty Lester’s “Love Letters.” In between songs, Fulks was as funny as ever with his stage banter.
As Fulks remarked, how can you go wrong with two people playing acoustic guitars and singing? Well, actually, that sort of thing can go wrong, but that’s not likely to happen with these two. Each of them made the other’s songs feel more complete.
Fulks continues his Hideout residency on Feb. 15 with a string trio. On Feb. 22, he’ll have his full band playing with him. The shows start at 7 p.m., and the suggested donation for admission is $10. www.hideoutchicago.com www.robbiefulks.com