Radney Foster

Well, he's got a band with him this time, in a venue he's always haunted solo. Some fans may like that, and some may not, but anyone who caught Radney Foster with a full backing band last May at the Gypsy Tea Room can confirm that Foster with a supporting posse is quite a different proposition than Ol' Radney by his just-call-me-lonesome. This time the country-pop crooner is back at Poor David's Pub, a stage he graced alone and often during his Nashville downtime, and you can expect to glimpse Foster's career second-wind: upbeat where it once was melancholy, throttling where it once was nuanced, filled-out and aggressive where it once was skeletal and insidious. It's neither an improvement nor an impairment. It's just different.

This past summer Foster released his third solo album, See What You Want to See, after a lengthy, depression-heavy slump; the new songs may not reflect the darkened heartbreak so pervasive during his occasional '96-'98 Poor David's appearances, but they allude to it in past tense. A rocky divorce and an even more treacherous child-custody battle left Foster a hollow man -- his "give-a-shit meter" down to nothing, as he told the Dallas Observer earlier this year.

But as any great singer-songwriter suspects (and Foster is one of them), time heals, and he emerged from the struggle with new songs, a new label (from Arista Nashville to Arista Austin), and a new belt of ammunition. That is to say, the affectionate energy he once displayed as half of the best-selling Foster & Lloyd duo a decade ago -- not to mention during the initial steps of his solo career circa 1992 -- is back in place. Foster, the crossover phoenix, is poised to take on the charts, the industry, the fans who had long given up on him, and the fans who stuck it out. The album hasn't been out all that long, so how far this regeneration can take him is still up for bets. Check him out at Poor David's and judge for yourself: Was low-key, lowdown Foster the better performer, or is the New-Man-plus-Band one to steal a shiny new spotlight?

Christina Rees

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Christina Rees