For country singer-songwriter Radney Foster, there are two things working for him these days: a solo career, and the return of his gig as half of Foster & Lloyd.
Foster first became widely known through his recording and touring with another musician, Bill Lloyd, with whom he made three albums in the late 1980s before the duo parted amicably.
“We made another album, It’s Already Tomorrow, two years ago, and I’m sure we’ll make another,” Foster says. “Right now, I have a solo album I’m touring with, Del Rio, Texas: Revisited Unplugged & Lonesome, which is what I’m bringing to Little Rock. I have a bluegrass trio - a woman on fiddle and a guy on mandolin and guitar - and together, we make a lot of noise for a trio, and folks have been coming out and dancing up a storm, whether we’re doing my country rock stuff, or some gospel stuff or whatever.”
Del Rio, Texas, is the town where Foster was born and raised, a town famous for the border radio scene that launched the career of radio DJ Wolfman Jack. Foster grew up the son, grandson and great-grandson of lawyers, but felt no pressure to keep the family legal links intact.
“My dad played guitar and sang, but he wasn’t very good,” Foster says with a laugh, “but he could carry a tune and I spent many a night listening to him and some of his pals playing on Saturday nights, doing whatever they thought sounded good, from Ray Price to Elvis, Hank Williams and so on. And dad had gone to school with Anita Carter of the Carter Family, and they played on the radio during World War II. Everyone came to Del Rio to play on the radio; even Elvis [Presley] came there.”
Inspired by his music-loving father, Foster went away to college, where his love of music intensified to the point that he left the University of the South in Sewanee, Tenn., between his junior and senior years to pursue his dreams in nearby Nashville.He was encouraged to do so by a Hot Springs native, Randy Goodrum, whose musical dreams had come true.
“Randy asked me what was I doing there and I told him I’d agreed to finish school if things didn’t work out quickly, and he said I needed to honor my commitment to my parents,” Foster says. “But he said I had enough talent that I needed to return when I graduated and he would do what he could to help.”
When Foster returned to Nashville in 1985, married to his college sweetheart, the couple would baby-sit the Goodrums’ two young daughters, and in return, Goodrum would trade studio time for Foster to make demo recordings. Before long, Foster found work as a songwriter at MTM Publishing Co., where he met Bill Lloyd. They co-wrote a song, “Since I Found You,” and the Sweethearts of the Rodeo took the song to the Top 10.
After a year of working together, Foster and Lloyd became more than just a songwriting duo: They began recording and touring together. RCA Records signed them and they made three studio albums, with nine singles that made the country charts. In 1990, they went their separate ways. Two years later, Foster named his first solo album Del Rio, TX 1959 at the suggestion of record company executive Tim DuBois, who recognized the sound of west Texas in what he was hearing.
That album contains a song with an Arkansas connection: “Me and John R.,” which Foster wrote along with Darden Smith and Jon-Randall Stewart.
“My dad was named John R., and I was sitting around with another Jon R., Randall,that is, and we were working on a song and Darden suggested a song about that other John R. - Johnny Cash - and we just started throwing in all the references to Johnny’s songs we could think of. Earlier, back when Foster & Lloyd got started, our first gigs were opening for Roy Orbison and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, and they invited us to their recording session for Will the Circle Be Unbroken Volume Two, and Johnny came across the room to shake our hands and tell us how much he liked our first album. That sure meant a lot to me.”
Foster’s second solo album, Labor of Love, came out in 1995, followed by See What You Want to See in 1999, Are You Ready for the Big Show? in 2001, Another Way to Go in 2002, And Then There’s Me (The Back Porch Sessions) in 2005, This World We Live In in 2006 and Revival in 2009.
Along the way, Foster found time to honor one of his youthful idols, Merle Haggard, by contributing a version of The Hag’s “The Running Kind” to the album Mama’s Hungry Eyes: A Tribute to Merle Haggard. Some Foster compositions have found greater success when recorded by others: The Dixie Chicks recorded his “Godspeed (Sweet Dreams)” and Keith Urban recorded Foster’s “Raining on Sunday” and “I’m In,” the latter of which reached No. 2 on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs list in 2010.
Sara Evans recorded a song Foster had co-written, “A Real Fine Place to Start,” and the song went to No. 1 in 2005.
Foster notes that it’s rare when a fan becomes a promoter of one of his shows, which is how the show at Juanita’s came to be. Paul Covert, a motorcycle racetrack owner and major Foster fan, even assembled an opening act for the show: Covert-Case, with Covert on lead vocals and guitar, Buddy Case on guitar, Rudy Osborne on pedal steel, Gary Shelton on percussion and Shanna Allen on harmony vocals.
“We will do a set of mostly Texas songwriter stuff: Guy Clark, Rodney Crowell, with some John Prine and Gram Parsons thrown in, also,” Covert says.
Opening acts: Adam Hambrick, Covert-Case
10 p.m. Friday, Juanita’s, 614 President Clinton Ave., Little Rock
$12 advance, $15 day of show
Weekend, Pages 35 on 05/09/2013
Print Headline: Radney enjoys playing in duo, or solo with trio