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Review: 'Everything I Should Have Said' by Radney Foster

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"Everything I Should Have Said" by Radney Foster

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The first time I met Radney Foster it was 1990. I was a Jumior and he came to speak about the music business as part of our career day. I came away that day convinced I wanted to work somewhere in music. Radney Foster is about as unlikely an inspiration for a long-haired high school kid in an Iron Maiden t-shirt as you could get, but he had an affable charm and a plain-spoken manner that made you want to like him. Nearly a quarter century later, those same qualities still shine through in his new album "Everything I Should Have Said", available May 13 from Devil's River Records.

For his first album of new material in 5 years, Radney Foster found inspiration by leaving Nashville behind and recording the album at Dockside Studios in Louisiana. Says Foster: "“I wanted the album to have a band feel, and to do that I knew we needed to get away from schedules and cell phones. When you’re sitting with the moss is hanging from the trees and the bayou rolling by, you can’t help but have your songs slow down and get swampier."

The album shows that new inspiration in the lead track "Whose Heart You Wreck (Ode to the Muse)." It may be called an "ode" to the muse, but it's a pretty backhanded one if it is. Backed up percussion section made up of an old trashcan, a piece of angle iron, and a gear plate, Foster's smoky blues guitar punctuates lyrics like "you smile and say that you've got one last story left to tell. You say you'll give me back my soul if I just cash this last check. But you don't give a damn whose heart you wreck."

Another album highlight may very well have been inspired by the ghosts that haunt Dockside Studios, a former brothel. At a loss for how to write yet another love song that didn't sound like a rerun, Foster decided to take the direct approach. The result, "Unh Unh Unh", leaves no doubt what the narrator wants, insisting "sometimes love should be monosyllabic." Aside from likely being the first time an Americana artist ever tried to rhyme "monosyllabic", it's also the lead in to a fun chorus of "I need that unh unh unh and that oh oh oh, that yes yes yes, not that no, no, no."

The album closes with another highlight, the album's title track. It's the album's most emotionally charged song, with Foster's road-weary vocals matching perfectly with the song's "heart laid open" lyrics.

"Everything I Should Have Said" is Radney Foster's most mature record to date. It's obvious he's having fun these days, making the albums he wants to make without worrying about sacrificing anything to the golden idol of country radio. Says Foster, "I’ve gotten to an age where I feel like I don’t have anything to prove. And that’s very freeing when it comes to playing, singing and recording.”

Will "Everything I Should Have Said" serve as inspiration for some 16 year old kid in an Avenged Sevenfold shirt? Maybe not. But you never know. As Radney Foster so masterfully explores throughout this album, inspiration often comes from the most unlikely of places.

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