july 2009

Radney Foster: A half-century on and celebrating with
Revival (Photo by Carol Youdas)

Amen to Love, Pass The Biscuits, Please

Radney Foster Celebrates 50th Birthday with A Powerful, Personal New Album in September. He Will Cook For You, Too

By David McGee

"I tell people all the time, every time I've ever tried to do something for money, it's blown up in my face. And every time I've just done something that's real creative and that I loved, it's worked out pretty good."

So said Radney Foster in an exclusive interview with TheBluegrassSpecial.com in May 2008. The context for the chat was an update on a flurry of activity from the Foster camp, including him producing a new album by Jack Ingram and trying out some new songs in selected road dates with his longtime guitar partner, Eric Borash. At the time, he was looking to get the new album out in early '09.

Well, come the end of the third quarter of '09 the album will emerge, and if the taste of it that's offered on his website is any indication, it's going to be some hard, punishing country and down-home rock 'n' roll of the sort Foster has pretty much trademarked, with the music of course serving some incisive, intensely personal lyrics reflecting on and inspired by his father's death and the end of a 12-year, 5,000-mile separation from his son. Appropriately titled Revival, the new album would seem to meet Foster's self-declared standard of his best work springing from "something that's real creative and that I loved."

The titles alone tell a story—"Forgiveness," "Until It's Gone," "Second Chances," "I Made Peace With God," "Life Is Hard (Love Is Easy)"—but as compelling as those are, the music fueling Foster's ruminations is arguably the most powerful he's ever delivered on record: twangy, punishing guitars and thundering drums on the Rodney Crowell-ish "Until It's Gone"; fuzzed out, sinister guitar and howling vocals on "Forgiveness"; shimmering, chiming guitar, heavy bass and a subdued, aching vocal on "I Know You Can Hear Me"; plaintive fiddle and tender, fingerpicked acoustic guitar on the spiritual reflection, "I Made Peace With God That Day." The snippets on the website do the job of whetting the appetite for the full versions of what sounds, in bits and pieces, like one of the most memorable albums of recent years.

In a release, Foster describes the songs as "close to the bone," written alone or with close friends, such as Darrell Brown and Jay Clementi. Subject matter includes a poignant goodbye to his father, fear of losing a child, and making the most of "Second Chances."

Making guest appearances on Revival are Dierks Bentley (who recorded Foster's "Sweet and Wild") on "Until It's Gone," and Darius Rucker on "Angel Flight," a moving tribute to the pilots who fly their fallen brethen home to their final resting places. Foster's co-writer, Darden Smith, started writing the song after talking to a Texas Air National Guard pilot who spoke of helming the "angel flight." Smith asked Radney to finish the song with him, and the pair are donating proceeds from the song to a charity that provides assistance to military families beset by tragedy.

The album closes with a bluegrass reprise of the title track. In old-school style, Foster, Tammy Rogers and Jon Randall gathered around a microphone and cut the song in one take

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"Look at that boy in the river/soaking wet with faith...Amen to love!'
"A Little Revival"
At the Bluebird Café, October 2, 2008, Radney performed an early version of his new album's first track, "A Little Revival"—so new even he stumbles on the lyrics at one one point. To quote the YouTube poster who uploaded this video, "Of special note is the way Hal Ketchum just waded right in with a hallelujah chorus, Beth Nielsen Chapman right in his wake, and Gary Nicholson riffing like he'd done guitar solos on this song all his life." Note too the political bent the song takes near the end.

But there's more. Revival is being released on Foster's own Devil's River record label, which gives him the freedom to customize special events for his fans. As his website notes, "Radney has financed his new CD without the help of a record label and is in the process of raising capital to pay for the promotion. Rad's team have come up with some great unique opportunities for fans to be a part of the process."

The first 1000 fans to pre-order Revival from radneyfoster.com will receive a free five-song EP. Some other options are pricier, but pretty cool, if you can afford them. For instance:

*Private Songwriting Session. One half-day private songwriting mentoring session with Radney, in Austin or in Nashville. This opportunity is limited to four participants per city. Contact info@radneyfoster.com for more information. Nashville dates are August 7 or 8; Austin dates are August 14 or 15. Session participants will also receive an advance, autographed copy of Revival. Price: $1,500

*A house concert for up to 30 guests. Radney will play a private show in your living room or back yard. Hosts will receive two VIP passes as described above. Contact info@radneyfoster.com for details. Price: $5,000

*Private concert and gourmet dinner for eight, including wine. Radney will prepare a gourmet meal, and play a private concert for guests at your location. Hosts will also receive two VIP passes as described above and each guest will receive an advance copy of Revival. Click here for a video sample. Contact info@radneyfoster.com for details Price: $7,500

So Foster will cook for you in your kitchen, then cook again in concert. Meaty fare, and rare, too. What could be better?

*Not the least of the Radney interactive opportunities: If you want Radney to be your fishing guide, or come to your location for a mentoring session, talk to him. E-mail info@radneyfoster.com with your ideas.

*Fans also have the opportunity to purchase a VIP pass that contains a USB drive with 18 songs, the Making of Revival documentary and access to pre-show meet and greets.

This month, ahead of his September album release, Foster is throwing two big parties to celebrate his 50th birthday, and everyone's invited. Join Radney and a host of special guests at one of these two shows: July 15 at Hill's Café in Austin, TX, 8 p.m., July 20 at the Exit/In in Nashville, also at 8 p.m.

In Austin, some of the Lone Star state's finest troubadours will help Radney celebrate his birthday in style. Look for Pat Green, Roger Creager, Cory Morrow, Brandon Rhyder, Darden Smith, Kevin Fowler and other surprise guests to perform their favorite Radney Foster songs. The show is free and sponsored by KVET.

At the July 20 Nashville show, special guests will include Darius Rucker, Dierks Bentley, Randy Rogers, Marc Broussard, Bill Lloyd, Lee Roy Parnell, George Ducas and other. Tickets are limited, and available only on the Exit/In website, http://www.ticketbiscuit.com/exitin/EventPage.aspx?EID=36749&.

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"Texas in 1880," a Foster & Lloyd classic, performed solo acoustic by Radney at the fabled Gruene Hall on May 20, 2007, complete with some Foster storytelling and philosophizing. Brady Black is awesome on fiddle.

Founder/Publisher/Editor: David McGee
Contributing Editors: Billy Altman, Laura Fissinger, Christopher Hill, Derk Richardson
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