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Foster, Smith finally join forces, fortunately

Club Passim, Cambridge, Mass., November 19, 2013

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

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Years in the talking, long-time friends Radney Foster and Darden Smith finally hit the road together. While the current tour - all one week of it - is on the short side time-wise, the music had not only length, but a lot of depth.

Foster, who has enjoyed a successful recording and perhaps more importantly songwriting career in the country realm, and Smith, who never quite has achieved that same level in the singer/songwriter field although quite worthy, finally set aside time to do their thing.

They shared the stage at the small music club, trading songs for a good two hours. While Foster, for example, might give background to a song and then launch into it, Smith then would help out on backing acoustic guitar and vocals. This was not a gig that was rehearsed, but that probably made it even better.

Foster's voice doesn't seem to have changed one bit from his days with Foster & Lloyd 25 years ago (the duo also regrouped for a disc in 2011). He has a vibrant, lively, full-throttled baritone and simply takes command of the country songs whether on the more uptempo side (I'm In, the self-described "West Texas version" of the song that Keith Urban had a hit with, one of two Foster songs he recorded) or a ballad (the very heartfelt Godspeed (Sweet Dreams), which fortunately for Foster, the Dixie Chicks recorded). He also introduced two new songs, which fit in just fine.

Smith veers more towards the folk side. His voice may not quite as powerful as his compadre, but he is an affable storyteller both in chatting with the audience and singing his songs.

The two closed out the enjoyable night with the heartfelt Angel Flight, a song about soldiers flying the body of a dead soldier back. Smith introduced the song with a good story about his inability to connect with U.S. soldiers he was playing to at a cafeteria in Germany until he talked with one who asked him about his guitar. Turns out the soldier was related to a member of Cajun band Beausoleil, who Smith knew. It was this kind of meaningful patter that made the material ever more worthy.

Heavy though the song was, Smith and Foster made for a night where the songs mattered.

And they demonstrated that even more with each taking on a winning cover for the first two encore songs - I Say a Little Prayer by Smith, who was inspired by seeing Burt Bachrach in concert in San Diego, and Merle Haggard's Today I Started Loving You Again by Foster.

This apparently was not the last time that the two will tour together as Foster indicated afterwards that more gigs are planned. Let's hope they keep it loose and vibrant. After all, that's working for them right now.