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Radney Foster
Are You Ready For The Big Show
Dualtone Music

In the back of every great rock and roll heart is a door that is sometimes tightly locked and fiercely guarded. That door leads to country music. There would be no Rock without the pathways led by country music from the 1950ís and even now. Radney Foster is an incredible example of that very truth. Fosterís songs are country to the core, but retain a distinct rock overtone that makes them easily palatable even to those ears that are not so ready to accept a country song. On Are You Ready For The Big Show? Radney Foster presents a 13 song live set that is a gift to those already familiar with his music, or a perfect introduction for those who have never heard the talent inside his fiery country soul.

"Tonight" starts the album off with the cleanest of down-home guitar licks, and moves into a sweet rock shuffle and hint-of-twang vocal line. The song almost has a "Scarecrow"-era Mellencamp feel about its beats and word-twists. The band slows down a bit and reaches for that bluegrass/folk towel on "God Knows When", a song that smoothly evokes the feel of the Mississippi delta in the story it surreptitiously weaves. "Just Call Me Lonesome" swings back into the southern country-blues and is resplendent with slide guitar licks that leave no room for doubt as to the talent of the musicians in this fine band. Do yourself a favor and grab a beautiful partner and take a few turns around the room. Dancing frees the soul, and this is wonderful music to accompany dancing. "Any of yíall ever get drunk and do something stupid? Thatís what this next song is aboutÖ" These words lead us into the rolling lessons of the "School Of Hard Knocks". It is a lamenting song full of the gusto of self-knowledge and truth.

"Went For A Ride" tells the true-life story of a man that each of us may know in some manner--a hero that goes unrecognized to all but a few. It is a hauntingly beautiful song, one of those rare musics that send chills up the spine and bring a soulful tear to the eye. "Iím Used To It" is a ballad of the type found so readily on country radio at this time in history, with the difference of being truly full of genuine sentiments. And some very nice guitar playing to boot. "Folding Money" grubs up the night with a dirty little shimmy-shake and a distinctive blues flavor. This song is another prime example of the flexibility of Foster and his songwriting, and the talents of his band; including a gritty vocal performance from Ashley Arrison, a beautiful whiskey-throated country siren. "Leaning On What Love Can Do" returns again to the bluegrass flavor and masks it in a beautiful ballad about the strength of life and love: I believe that love can see this thing through, even though we canít see how. Taking the ear back to a 50ís style country swing, "How You Play The Hand" is a majestic and calming, hopeful song. This song would be just as comfortable on the dance floor at a large club or in a wood paneled darkened bar where two lovers dance closely at closing time. Mandolin carries the song on "Nobody Wins". This song is co-authored by Kim Richey and itís easy to imagine her voice singing in tandem with Foster. Honey love ainít black and white; Itís the way I feel about you. The set finishes up with long-time favorite "Iím In". The performance is inspired and never suffers from that lack of energy so common when an artistís best-known songs are being performed live. Arrison once again lends a beautiful counterpoint to Fosterís vocals and enriches the experience of the song.

With an incredible band backing Radney Foster on this live record, the pleasure is in not only the beauty of the songs themselves, but in the purity of the performance. The co-authors of a few of these songs are instantly recognizable to the listener familiar with alt-country and modern folk/country, showing the esteem with which the industry recognizes Fosterís song. The only thing I wish from this album is that I had been there for the taping. On a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being Cheap Trick Live At Budokan and 10 being Oasis Live At Budokan, Are You Ready For The Big Show? rates a solid 8. Yíall come back soon, now.

ĖDavid DeVoe

Track Listing

  1. Are You Ready For The Big Show?
  2. Tonight
  3. God Knows When
  4. Just Call Me Lonesome
  5. Something Stupid
  6. School Of Hard Knocks
  7. Intro to Went For A Ride
  8. Went For A Ride
  9. Iím Used To It
  10. Folding Money
  11. Leaning On What Love Can Do
  12. How You Play The Hand
  13. Nobody Wins
  14. We Know Better
  15. Iím In

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