Radney Foster crafts story songs with singular grit and grace. Clear evidence: The celebrated songwriter’s Del Rio, TX 1959. Twenty years ago, the contemporary country classic showcased a songwriter in peak form with hits brassy (“Just Call Me Lonesome”) and bruised (“Nobody Wins”) and buoyant with blues (“Easier Said Than Done”). “Del Rio’s arguably the best country record I’ve ever made,” Foster says. “So many young singers and songwriters come up to me and say, ‘I wore that record out.’” Take Darius Rucker. “I told Capitol in my second meeting that if they wanted me to record Del Rio, TX, 1959 all over I’d be fine with that,” the country superstar says. “Radney Foster’s my biggest influence.”
Two decades on, Foster’s new Del Rio, TX Revisited: Unplugged and Lonesome reinvents his hallmark solo debut as an ambitious and haunting acoustic collection. “This time everyone was in the same room, with live takes with no fixes and no headphones,” says Steve Fishell, who produced the original Del Rio and played guitars on Revisited. “We have all new tempos and new grooves. Imagine the original version of Eric Clapton’s ‘Layla’ compared to his 1992 live unplugged version and you’ll get the idea.” Gloriously transformed high watermarks include “Don’t Say Goodbye,” “A Fine Line” and “Went For A Ride.” Elegance matches endurance with favorites (“Old Silver”) and bonus additions alike (the stunning new meditation “Me and John R.”).
Foster’s extraordinary session band effortlessly achieved transcendence. In March, Dixie Chick Martie Maguire (fiddle), Jon Randall Stewart (guitar), Glenn Fukunaga (doghouse bass), Michael Ramos (keyboard) and Fishell entered Austin’s Cedar Creek Recording with specific missions: Loosen all restraints. Shoot for the heart. Let feeling guide. Gems quickly emerged. “Things worked out beyond my wildest expectations,” Foster says. “Twenty years ago, I worried about every single detail. With this new record, you have these incredible musicians doing surprising things on the fly. There’s a looseness yet remarkable precision. You stop worrying about minutia and you start saying, ‘Does that communicate? Do you feel the emotion?’”