Radney Foster | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Radney Foster looks like the kind of guy whom rockabilly bonehead Ronnie Hawkins would've affectionately called "Peabody:" clipped hair, wire specs, his nose poised to bury itself in a book. And while it's true Foster's eloquent country-rock solo debut Del Rio, TX 1959 proves he's a literate type, his boyish, bookworm looks are a welcome change in a field glutted with boot-scootin' cowboys. Foster honed his Nashville songsmith skills as one-half of the duo Foster & Lloyd. Del Rio finds him perfecting that early synthesis of country, pop and rock, and delivering his insightful lyrics in a gentle, twangy tenor. "Nobody Wins" is glorious pop, although I suppose the pedal steel washes are meant to qualify as country. Foster does deliver pure country on several counts. "Just Call Me Lonesome" is a shuffling, mid-tempo honky-tonker and "Easier Said Than Done" chronicles a marriage torn by unfaithfulness against a background of mournful guitars. The best tune here, "A Fine Line," recalls Steve Earle's snarling rock edge. Foster's a keen storyteller, unsentimental and specific when he runs down the story of an adulterous husband who's just found out his girlfriend is pregnant. Overwhelmed by the implications, he pulls over on the highway. Foster sings, "Now he feels like a farmer who went prayin' for rain / And got more than he bargained from the clouds." It's a harsh dilema about whether to stay and own up, or split and don't look back. A Steve Earle protagonist would no doubt light out for the border. Foster's man turns the car around and heads home to face the pain. but you probably guessed that anyway, because Foster really does look like that kind of guy. Tuesday, 7:30 PM, Whiskey River, 1997 N. Clybourn; 528-3400.

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