Radney Foster,
This World We Live In
(Dualtone, 2006)

This World We Live In is Radney Foster's third album for Dualtone and adds further weight, if it were needed, to Radney's reputation as one of the finest songwriters currently working in music. Though many may not be familiar with the name, they may well be familiar with some of his songs that have been covered by the Dixie Chicks on a number of their extremely successful albums.

The album avoids all the pitfalls of the genre, perfectly combining rootsy country sounds with heartfelt ballads and a dash of good old-fashioned rock 'n' roll. The production is well judged throughout, with a real "live band" sound courtesy of proven session musicians: Waddy Watchel (guitars) and Charley Drayton (drums) -- from Keith Richard's other band, the X-pensive Winos -- along with bassist Bob Glaub, who has played with such luminaries as Jackson Brown and CSNY. The raw sound created by the musicians provides the perfect backdrop for Radney's country twang.

It is the utter sincerity of Radney's lyrics that provide the ultimate draw to This World We Live In. Radney's musings on love and life immediately entice you to empathise with the characters in his songs, or reflections on his own life experiences. Radney has the uncanny ability to decode the spectrum of human emotions that are familiar territory to us all.

"Sweet & Wild" manages to be both a tender yet sexy ballad, with sumptuous harmony vocals: "every breath fed the flame, your warm body drove me insane." The tempo steps up somewhat for the rock 'n' roll stomp of "Big Idea," which is best described as just out and out good fun, whilst "New Zip Code" is a novel turn of phrase for a song about moving on and starting anew.

There is always a strong element of optimism to be found in Radney's songs, and a great belief in human nature. This facet of Radney's writing is well illustrated in "The Kindness of Strangers," where the relationship between a prostitute and potential client goes no further than conversation, telling the story of a beautiful moment of understanding between two strangers and culminating with a compassionate farewell: "I don't pray much, but honey I'll pray for you."

This World We Live In is a thoroughly enjoyable and thoughtful collection from a fine songwriter who soothes the soul and opens the mind.

by Mike Wilson
30 September 2006

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