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Radney Foster

Are You Ready for the Big Show? – 2001 (Dualtone)

Reviewed by Nick A. Zaino III

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CDs by Radney Foster

Radney Foster delivers what country radio promises and rarely achieves. He writes simple, earnest tunes - well-crafted with great melodies and universal subject matter, sung with a clear, strong voice. But he's also willing to screw things up when the mood strikes, and that's what he's set out to do here. He's taken the live album format and decided to use it not to rehash his old hits for lack of new material, or to make a spectacle to attract attention. Instead, he's put together a great band, reinterpreted some of his overlooked work from previous solo albums, and thrown in a healthy dose of brand new material.

There are some favorites on here. "Folding Money" and "I'm In" seem to be the biggest crowd pleasers. But "Folding Money" is refitted with a short instrumental bridge that nods to Portishead, and a mandolin solo that fleetingly quotes Henry Mancini. It's clear Foster is interested in breaking things up. His drummer isn't even playing drums - he's playing a mismatched set of old cans and found items. But - and this is the method of Foster's madness - it sounds great. As does the new material, which stacks up with anything else on the album. The most important thing is that it sounds good. And if you notice the innovation, so much the better.