As a young musician straight out of Texas, Radney Foster spent the lengthy drives in between tour stops reading the likes of John Steinbeck, Larry McMurtry, and Harper Lee. Over 30 years of artist cuts later, there is no question that he himself is an established storyteller. Whether it’s navigating the ever-changing music industry or battling a sudden, terrifying illness – Foster definitely has a story to tell.
In late Fall 2015, the legendary songwriter got the diagnosis every musician fears-- a severe case of pneumonia and laryngitis. However, for someone who’s been producing songs for almost 40 years, the desire to write doesn’t fade along with the voice. During a grueling six-week period of vocal constraint, Foster’s creative side emerged in the form of a short story inspired by the song, titled “Sycamore Creek,” and the idea for Foster’s newest endeavor was born.
For You To See The Stars is a project comprised of two parts – a book and a CD. The book is a collection of short stories published by Working Title Farm. Though the stories are fiction, they are informed by Foster’s upbringing on the Mexican border in Del Rio, TX. The story that most closely resembles memoir, “Bridge Club,” is a humorous and poignant retelling of the song “Greatest Show on Earth,” a recollection of playing music with family and friends on the back porch on a Saturday night.
While it’s evident that Texas has always been an inspiration for his music, in For You To See The Stars, Foster explores various landscapes, both physical and emotional, from the story of a retired spy in New Orleans, to the tale of a Dallas lawyer wandering the Rocky Mountains in search of redemption, to a post-apocalyptic parable of a world in endless war.
The beauty of this CD/book combo lives within Foster’s extensive imagery, which not only further expands the meaning behind Foster’s songs, but gives the reader a look at the thought process behind his songwriting. “For me, the goal of writing is always to touch that one person so much that they wonder how I got a peek into their living room--how I understood exactly what they felt. More than just rhyming or having a pretty melody, I try to express a part of the human condition that can make someone want to laugh, cry, make love, or all of the above.”
For You To See The Stars is Radney Foster’s eleventh album. Foster has written eight number one hit singles, including his own “Nobody Wins,” and “Crazy Over You” with duo Foster & Lloyd. His discography contains countless cuts by artists ranging anywhere from country (Keith Urban, The Dixie Chicks, Luke Bryan, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band) to contemporary (Marc Broussard, Hootie & The Blowfish, Kenny Loggins, Los Lonely Boys). Although highly recognized and accomplished in the music world, Foster is a true renaissance man. In addition to For You To See The Stars being his first book, Foster recently starred in the world premiere of "Troubadour,” at Atlanta’s Tony Award winning Alliance Theatre. He also appears in the upcoming feature film, Beauty Mark.
For You To See The Stars is Foster at his classic storytelling best, both as a seasoned singer/songwriter and a soulful writer of prose. Although both components stand alone as separate pieces of art-- they are meant to be enjoyed together for a reason. When coupled, the book and CD give fans a deeper insight into the subconscious of Foster’s storytelling. Journalist Peter Cooper puts it best, “Radney Foster writes with uncommon depth of emotion, humor, empathy, and clarity. I’m going to ask him how he does it, and if he tells me I’ll let you in on his secret. Until then, it’s best that we read, wonder, and revel.”
Edgeland moves roots singer/subtle excavator of the human condition Kim Richey through the topography of the life lived by a woman committed to following her music. Flinching over hurting another, knowing the ways of the road, seeking higher ground and accepting the fact everyone’s truth isn’t a white picket fence, she continues defying labels as she defines the thinking person’s life.
“Right now, my stuff is all in storage,” she says of her state of constant motion. “I’ve lived in a lot of different places – different countries even. It’s a little overwhelming, keeping track of stuff, but it’s been an amazing trip because music has taken me places I never dreamed… I’m the same way with writing. Even when I’ve finished a record, or am in the middle of recording, I’m writing. Writing songs is what I do; it’s how I connect with the world.”
Kim Richey is a traveller, after all. Musically, physically, emotionally. Not merely restless or rootless, it’s who she is. Willing to follow where the music leads, she’s landed in Los Angeles, Nashville, London, working with a who’s who of producers – Richard Bennett, Hugh Padgham, Bill Bottrell, Angelo, Giles Martin. She’s attracted a coterie of top-shelf genre-definers -- Jason Isbell, Trisha Yearwood, Chuck Prophet, My Morning Jacket’s Carl Broemel, Wilco’s Pat Sansone – for her critically-lauded projects. She has also sung on records for Ryan Adams, Shawn Colvin, Isbell, and Rodney Crowell.
Part of what draws them to the dusky honey of her crystalline alto is the way she writes: to and from the soul, never flinching from the conflicts and crushing moments, yet always finding dignity and resilience. Her arc of the human heart is true. True enough that over the years, Richey’s been both Grammy nominated. Nominated for Yearwood’s truculently groove-country “Baby, I Lied,” she also co-wrote Radney Foster’s #1 “Nobody Wins.”
Once again, Richey has drawn a multitude of collaborators who rival her own singular voice. Veteran journeymen artist/writers Chuck Prophet, Maendo Sanz, Mike Henderson (Steeldrivers), Bill Deasy (the Gathering Field), Pat McLaughlin (John Prine) and Al Anderson (NRBQ), plus Aussies Jenny Queen and Harry Hokey co-sign on these musical polaroids from the going, the leaving, and the pausing.
“I’ll be doing an interview, and people will say, ‘You co-write a lot…’,” she marvels, “like it’s a bad thing. But it’s inspiring to me, and takes me in other directions, to other places. The people I write with are funny, and smart, and a blast to hang out with, but they’re also really good writers in their own right. Nobody’s pandering or chasing ‘a hit,’ we’re all just trying to get to the best possible song.”
Richey enlisted producer Brad Jones, known for Over the Rhine, Josh Rouse, Butterfly Boucher, Hayes Carll and Marshall Crenshaw, in crafting an adult album that evokes and provokes musically. “I wasn’t sure at first if we’d be a good combo because he has such strong opinions, and I do, too. But it was (laughter) the easiest record I’ve ever made. He has really different ideas, and it’s nice to have somebody push you in a direction you might not have gone – and have them respect your opinion, too. I really loved working with Brad.””
With three different tracking bands, Edgeland is a who’s who of Nashville’s roots players: beyond co-writers, steel player Dan Dugmore, drummer Jerry Roe, multi-instrumentalist Sansone, guitarist/various stringed thing players Doug Lancio and Dan Cohen, string arranger Chris Carmichael and Robin Hitchcock all contribute to the bewitchery.
“So many of these guys produce and make records on their own,” she marvels. “I’m open to collaboration, too. These songs wouldn’t sound the way they do without these players.”
“It’s a lot easier to say something in a song than in a conversation,” allows the easy-going grown-up. “And it’s not all about me, but the people in the songs. Even the stuff you leave out says something, so you’re creating on so many layers. And sometimes I don’t know where it comes from, just some other place.”