Monday, May 23, 2011
Critic's Corner- Foster & Lloyd- It's Already Tomorrow- CD Album Review
Flash forward to 2011 and modern country radio listeners recognize Foster for being the writer for Keith Urban’s “Raining On Sunday” and “I’m In” than for his terrific work with Lloyd over two decades ago. Those in the know, however, have looked forward to this reunion for years.
The wait is certainly worth it on It’s Already Tomorrow. It opens up with the title track, a great tip of the hat to time past and water under the bridge. Now on the back half of their singing careers, it’s a great appropriate start to the album. “That’s What She Said” is a terrific wry and cute tribute to dirty jokes and double entendres targeted to get a roll in the hay with the one you love set to a righteous rolling guitar. “If It Hadn’t Been For You” is sure to be a future Keith Urban ballad and “Hold That Thought” is a rocking little number set to dual electric guitars. It’s like Viagra set to music. “Picasso’s Mandolin” is complete left field lyrics- smart and silly at the same time- and is a great example of them trading vocals to a great positive effect. When Foster sings that he’d like “to get you out of that Freudian slip” on the great little honky-tonk steel guitar gem “Can’t Make Love Make Sense,” you just know that the guys just do it a little smarter than the rest of us. Only the Pink Floyd 70’s rock sounding “Don’t Throw It Away” feels out of place.
It’s Already Tomorrow is a welcome return to the country music table for two highly underrated musical muses. Four stars out of five.
Ken Morton, Jr.
That Nashville Sound
Twenty-one years after going their separate ways, Radney Foster and Bill Lloyd are reuniting for their fourth studio album, It’s Already Tomorrow. The 13-song collection, all co-written by Foster and Lloyd, finds the duo fully entrenched in their element, amidst country rock grooves and sharp lyrics with a focus on intricate vocal harmonies.
Though the duo hasn’t released a new album since 1990’s Version of the Truth, Radney and Bill continued to meet through the years, keeping their writing partnership very much alive. They reunited onstage for a recent Americana Music Association fundraiser and found that the magic was most definitely still there. Songwriting sessions became more frequent and eventually the decision was made to go back into the studio.
It’s Already Tomorrow opens with the ringing guitar hook of the uptempo title track. “It’s already tomorrow, how did we get here so fast?” Foster sings through the chorus as Lloyd harmonizes to match the guitars. And though the song’s reflective gaze is cast on a loving wife, you can’t help but note how perfectly appropriate the lines seem in the context of the return from a two-decade hiatus. The album’s lyrics are smart throughout, like on the fantastic funk/swamp country groove of “Picasso’s Mandolin” (co-written with Guy Clark and featuring the great Sam Bush on mandolin). “The fork in the road is a piece of cake/ You got to eat the one you take,” Foster and Lloyd sing about finding one’s own voice and staying true to it.
On the piano-based ballad “If It Hadn’t Been For You,” the duo shows off their harmonies with flowing melodies through lines like, “If it hadn’t been for you, I might’ve never bought a ticket for the ride of this crazy life/ Learn to love the twists and turns, the ups and downs, with you by my side.” Here, the music, harmonies and words work together to form an elegant visual, though the overall sound still maintains the loose feel that carries through the album. Riding steady on the electric motor of distorted guitars, the rockin’ driving song “Hold That Thought” illustrates how seductive the right combination of a loose groove and word choice can be before Foster and Lloyd sing, “Honey, hold that thought ‘til I get there.”
And here they are, twenty-one years later as a friendship and shared musical history bring them together again. Foster and Lloyd’s new work has the familiarity of bumping into an old friend only to realize it feels like no time has passed at all. To borrow a line when you haven’t skipped a beat, “It’s already tomorrow, how did we get here so fast?”
It’s Already Tomorrow, the first new album from the mighty Foster & Lloyd in a mere 21 years, set for release digitally on April 26th and on physical CD on May 27th (on the sweetly named “Effin ‘Ell” label, which sounds like a nod to their British Invasion pop-flavored side). There may be a little of “we’re album-era guys, and we think in terms of albums” at work there, though Radney Foster and Bill Lloyd are no strangers to hit country singles. But this is an album that, in its entirety, accomplishes something else. It stakes a claim; namely, that this pair’s got the voices, instrumental chops, chemistry together and song-making ability they’d always had, and, except for the pesky fact that times are different, they’re ready to proceed as engagingly and memorably as in their big label heyday together. Trust me, the record shows that this is exactly so.
It’s got elegiac, expansive country rockers such as the opening, title track, the mule-kick country with rhythm twists of “That’s What She Said” (the sort of Foster & Lloyd cut that made them the country chart answers to Rockpile’s Edmunds and Lowe), and takes the opportunity to introduce their own version of the hooky “Picasso’s Mandolin,” (co-written with and previously recorded by Guy Clark), with Sam Bush on the mando solo. And they show off the band with which they’ve made a few select charity fundraiser appearances, including Tom Petersson from Cheap Trick on bass. This would be an appealing, wide-ranging record if it introduced unknowns named Lester & Floyd, but it simply couldn’t do what it does in a single or two.
Fans of their older records will no doubt hear the familiar blend that only happens when Radney and Bill work together. One might think that after a twenty-year break, the vocal harmonies might creak a little but the duo sounds surprisingly strong from the opening notes. Foster’s voice is strong, deep and resonant throughout the album and you can hear the years of experience in his tone and timbre. Lloyd is still hitting all the high harmonies with style. Their blend is cohesive and is arguably tighter than it used to be.
As before, it’s the guitars that hold center spotlight when it comes to the instrumental aspect of the Foster & Lloyd sound. Lloyd delivers his usual guitar hooks sounding reckless enough to be exciting but melodic enough to be memorable. There are plenty of crunchy guitars to go with the twangy and succinct solos’ that you can hum later. Foster also adds both electric and rhythm acoustic parts to the mix.
From the ringing opening notes of “It’s Already Tomorrow,” the rockin’ twin telecasters of “That’s What She Said,” to the plaintive harmonies of the final acoustic track “When I Finally Let You Go,” the collection is vintage Foster & Lloyd. The duo co-wrote all twelve songs and co-produced the set, which was recorded and mixed by Justin Tocket (known for his work with Marc Broussard, the Randy Rogers band and others) with the same core band of Foster, Lloyd, Petersson and Brodgon. Petersson even joined the duo in co-writing “Lucky Number.”
The duo also put their own spin on an old song, “Picasso’s Mandolin,” which they had written years before with Guy Clark, who recorded it on his Boats To Build album.
Other guests on It’s Already Tomorrow include legendary pedal steel guitarist Lloyd Green, who is featured on “You Can’t Make Love Make Sense” and the Beatle-esque ballad “If It Hadn’t Been For You.” Noted producer and former Emmylou Harris steel guitarist Steve Fishell also played blistering lap steel on “Don’t Throw It Away,” and singer/songwriter Beth Nielsen Chapman came by to lend her beautiful voice to “Lucky Number.” After the core combo tracked the album, Radney and Bill recorded one last song, the acoustic-based "When I Finally Let You Go," in Radney's home studio. Bruce Springsteen's E. St. Band bassist, Garry Tallent, was in town visiting and added a nylon string bass part to the recording.
Through all the inventive lyrical twists and turns and crackerjack guitar licks, what comes through loudest is a sense of fun, adventure...and freedom. “Back then, we were concerned with trying to keep ourselves within a radio format,” says Lloyd. “We would try and be different enough to stand out but we didn’t want to color too far outsides the lines. We didn’t have any constraints this time. The sound of this new album is unfettered by formats...either real or imagined.”
Country. Rock n’ Roll. Power-pop. Folk. Americana. Whatever you want to call it, Radney and Bill combined make Foster & Lloyd music.
Jim’s Country Music Reviews