This World We Live In
First Appeared in The Music Box, April 2006, Volume 13, #4
Written by Tracy M. Rogers
Texas-born, singer/songwriter Radney Foster has had a storied career in country music — both as a member of the neo-traditionalist duo Foster and Lloyd and as a solo artist. His own outings have sported numerous irregularities, and his debut Del Rio Texas 1959 set a standard that he since has been unable to duplicate. Unfortunately, This World We Live In, his latest effort, is another uneven affair. Featuring a stellar backing band that includes Waddy Wachtel, Charley Drayton, Bob Glaub, and The Wallflowers' Rami Jaffee, This World We Live In is a collection of Stones-inspired roots-rockers and country-tinged ballads that possess lyrical highs and lows, ranging from trite observations to sublimely insightful ruminations upon life and love.
This World We Live In’s opening track Drunk on Love is a honky-tonk-meets-roots-rock boogie that builds from a slow simmer into a rollicking tempo. In telling a tale about being drunk on the first kiss, however, Foster’s lyrics dip into cliché, subsequently undermining the song’s stellar melody and production. Somehow the crunchy guitars and driving, two-step rhythm of the following selection Sweet and Wild work within the context of the tune’s love struck lyrics and Sarah Buxton’s sweet, soprano backing vocals. On the other hand, The Kindness of Strangers finds Foster appropriating another pedantic musing that doesn’t work as he spins a yarn about a hooker with a heart of gold.
Half My Mistakes is the likely highlight of This World We Live In. A country-rock ballad about regrets that lead to wisdom, the song features superb tremolo guitar riffs by Wachtel and mesmerizing backing vocals by the sublime Kim Richey. Nevertheless, Foster falters again on the generic New Zip Code, though he regains his momentum with the old-school, country-and-cello minimalism of I Won’t Lie to You — a dreamy ballad, featuring vocalist Emily West, that matches love’s healing powers against the pitfalls of modern living. Unfortunately, the following track Prove Me Right sounds, both lyrically and musically, like something from Toby Keith’s playbook.
Another high point is Fools that Dream, a tune about a doomed relationship on which Richey adds soaring harmonies to Foster’s dreamy, spare, country-folk arrangement. He also advantageously takes a less-is-more approach with Never Gonna Fly, a song, co-written with Jack Ingram, that expounds upon the age-old adage that one must take risks in order to achieve benefits. It’s advice that Foster himself ought to have heeded as he concocted This World We Live In. Taken in total, the collection illuminates the fine line that separates profound poetry from banal platitudes, and regrettably, he fills the album with an ample amount of both. All in all, This World We Live In is a musical and lyrical mixed bag that occasionally nears perfection, but just as often falls far short of Foster’s potential. ½
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2006 The Music Box