From Friday’s Weekend Look section of The Oklahoman.
Radney Foster “Del Rio, Texas Revisited: Unplugged and Lonesome” (Devil’s River Records)
The songs sound a bit different but their bone-deep resonance remains the same on Radney Foster’s “Del Rio, Texas Revisited: Unplugged and Lonesome.”
After he and Bill Lloyd dissolved their Grammy-nominated duo Foster & Lloyd in 1990, Foster made his solo debut two years later with “Del Rio, TX 1959,” an album that paid homage to his birthplace and year as well as to pure, undiluted country music.
The singer-songwriter’s first individual effort earned critical acclaim and notched four top 40 country hits with “Just Call Me Lonesome,” “Nobody Wins,” “Easier Said Than Done” and “Hammer and Nails.” The album also influenced future stars from the Dixie Chicks and Keith Urban to Sara Evans and Darius Rucker; the Hootie & the Blowfish frontman even named his sophomore country record “Charleston, SC 1966” in a tip of the hat to Foster’s solo breakthrough.
Twenty years after the release of “Del Rio, TX,” Foster assembled a sterling session band to record new acoustic versions of the 10 original tracks plus the bonus cut “Me and John R.,” which fits so neatly in the middle of the reshuffled album sequence that it’s easy to forget it hasn’t always been there. Of course, when you have Dixie Chick Martie Maguire on fiddle, Jon Randall Stewart on guitar, Glenn Fukunaga on doghouse bass, Michael Ramos on keyboard and Steve Fishell, who produced the original “Del Rio” playing guitar, you don’t need electricity for the songs to have plenty of juice.
The unplugged renditions may boast less of that old-school honky-tonk verve, but the stripped-down versions of story songs like “A Fine Line” and “Old Silver” amp up the emotional impact. His Americana spin on “Hammer and Nails” isn’t as conducive to wailing along, but the only slightly tweaked “Just Call Me Lonesome” will still have country fans tapping their toes.
Even the new version of his smash “Nobody Wins,” which happens to be one of my all-time favorite country songs, has its own folksy charms that devotees can appreciate, a clear testament to the strength of Foster’s songcraft.