Radney Foster's been around for decades it seems, but has been one of the more underrated and under-appreciated wordsmiths around. His latest, however, has a link to far more words than even Bob Dylan could fit on a double-disc effort. The link is the album is a collection of songs with each track culled from "a companion short story" compilation of the same name penned by the musician. The result is an album that has plenty of warm, folksy nuggets, which makes the listener appreciate how well-crafted most of the material is.
In fact, each track possesses a certain campfire sing-along blueprint with toe-tapping oomph tossed in for good measure. This is definitely the case with "Greatest Show On Earth" with Foster referencing Elvis while fiddle and mandolin give the song some punch. Meanwhile, producer Will Kimbrough ensures there are also more streamlined radio-friendly country gems like "It Ain't Done With Me," which screams to be covered by Keith Urban or Brad Paisley. Or both.
Perhaps the best track of the lot of the 11 (well actually 10 not including the closing "Sycamore Creek (Reprise)" is "Belmont & Sixth," a vivid and poignant look at veterans who served only to be ignored and forgotten about on their return. Foster gives the anonymous man a face, one he noticed on the song title's intersection. The haunting tone and music only adds to the track's strength. A close second, however, might be the songwriting-by-numbers "All That I Require," which has a pointed view despite Foster falling in line delivery-wise like Springsteen circa "Devils & Dust."
While most of the material hits the mark, Foster seems to stretch a bit too much on the dour, somber, blues-tinged "Raining On Sunday" that never quite works the kinks out. A nice attempt at a ballad, but it comes off as too forced. "Rock & Roll Slow Dance" is too rich, orchestral and string-laced in its introduction to get back on the rails. Thankfully by the time Foster gets to "Howlin'," he's spot on with this funky little jewel that has him offering up a Warren Zevon-lite howl.
Foster told Billboard earlier in 2017 how the album was created from a health issue, namely laryngitis, which naturally impeded his singing. The problem obviously was the silver lining in a dark cloud judging by the songs, including the simple, but elegant "While You Were Making Time," which wraps up a bit sooner than you'd hope for. Overall, though, it's a very good album that ensures Foster still has a lot left to give fans and admirers.