When his debut album Del Rio, TX 1959 was released in 1992, it wasn't just the beginning of singer/songwriter Radney Foster's solo career. It also marked the end of his four-year, three-album-run as one-half of cowpunk duo Foster & Lloyd.
Bill Lloyd had moved on to other things, and Foster had set out to record a stone-cold country album. Del Rio, Texas 1959 went on to produce five singles for Foster: "Just Call Me Lonesome," "Nobody Wins," "Easier Said Than Done," "Hammer and Nails" and "Closing Time," which was the only single from the album not destined to reach the Top 40 of the country charts. "Just Call Me Lonesome" hit the Top 10.
In honor of its 20th anniversary, Foster decided to re-record the album. Del Rio, Texas 1959 has long since gone out of production, and many of his newer fans started asking him where they could get a copy.
"The truth of the matter is that I have had fans for years since it's been out of print asking me how to get it," Foster says. "It's awfully hard when you sing 'Nobody Wins' or 'Just Call Me Lonesome' every single night and people don't know where to get it. And the new fans, you know there'll be 20-year-old fans wondering where to get it."
But Foster also wanted to revamp the album, take the old lyrics and notes and slap a new vibe to it. The result was Del Rio, Texas Revisited: Unplugged and Lonesome, which has one extra track called "Me And John R." The album was recorded at Cedar Creek Recording Studios in Austin and released August 14 on Foster's label, Devil's River Records.
"I just decided it that I wanted to honor the 20th anniversary of that record, but I didn't want to go back in and try to recreate the exact same thing," Foster says. "You know lightning just doesn't strike in the same place twice. I've heard some of those by other artists and I was generally or usually disappointed."
At one point Foster was thinking about recording a track-by-track live version, but since he already has a popular live album, Are You Ready For the Big Show?, which was released in 2001, he decided to go another way.
Foster decided he would take an old-school approach to recording in that all the musicians were in the recording studio at the same time. For the most part, if a take didn't work out, all of them had to discuss what to change and then record it again. They also had to reposition themselves in the studio to get the right sound, and the only people in the recording studio who got to use headphones were the 20 fans who got chosen to observe the recording.
So, in a way it is a live record...just in the studio.
"It's a performance," says Foster. "It is what it is."
And the fans allowed in the room were really the only ones a little worried about their performances.
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"I think they were terrified," Foster says about the onlookers. "Some people did it but some were so scared because they were afraid they were gonna' like squeak or something and end up on the thing."
Radney Foster plays Dosey Doe Coffee in The Woodlands Thursday.