(Effen Ell Records)
Of late, the music business has been overrun by reunions. Sadly, most of these are done to take advantage of millions in touring and merchandise. The Eagles come to mind as they ushered in a cottage industry of high profile (and high profit) reunions. However, this should not to take away from artists that legitimately wish to make music again with old bandmates or partners. Foster & Lloyd unexpected reuniting absolutely falls into the legit category.
Foster & Lloyd were always a wonderfully odd pairing. Texan Radney Foster had a strong sense of classic country while Kentuckian Bill Lloyd loved power pop. Looking back, it's an amazing feat that Foster & Lloyd were ever considered and accepted as country music. They were fortunate to come around when Nashville probably had its widest sense of acceptance.
Artists like Dwight Yoakam, Steve Earle, and Lyle Lovett were all being played by country radio. Foster & Lloyd rode that train as well hitting the country top 10 with several songs, most notably "Crazy Over You". The duo made smart records that seamlessly blended their influences.
When Nashville's broader acceptance changed with Garth Brooks and country's shift towards the "soccer mom" audience, Foster & Lloyd didn't have a viable home anymore. They split with Foster remaining as a mainstream country music artist and Lloyd making a series of intelligent indie pop records as Foster recently explained:
It was bittersweet to hang it up, but we remained friends. I wanted to make a stone-cold country record, and Bill was doing his pop thing and producing, and I didn’t think it was going to be 20 years before we got back together.
After a few solo hits, Foster soon left the ranks of mainstream Nashville to become an Americana champion. Lloyd dabbled in all kinds of great projects as well. Both stayed at the forefront amongst Nashville's underground scene while also writing songs for mainstream country artists.
The decision to reunite the duo with It's Already Tomorrow is a stroke of genius. Both are indie artists now leaving the creative decisions up to them. As Foster explains, "Bill and I do something unique together that we don’t do apart." How true. Their musical partnership is a unique collaboration. They are the South's version of Nick Lowe and Dave Edmunds, two individuals who together could blend pop, rock, hillbilly, and country into a potent mix. Lloyd explains the magic of today's Foster & Lloyd:
[When Foster & Lloyd first started], we were concerned with trying to keep ourselves within a radio format. We would try and be different enough to stand out but we didn’t want to color too far outsides the lines (although some would say we colored right off the page from the git-go). We didn’t have any constraints this time. The sound of this new album is unfettered by formats...either real or imagined.
Jangling guitars and soaring harmonies, all caught within catchy melodies are what's served up here. There's plenty of country as well, but it's the good old kind like 60s Bakersfield. The amazing thing about It's Already Tomorrow is that it sounds better than any Foster & Lloyd record. The production style from back in the late 80s was pretty thin.
Today's version of Foster & Lloyd sounds much more muscular with Lloyd's guitar way out front as it should be. The title track's Byrdsy vibe lifted by the chiming of Lloyd's Rickenbacker. Tunes like "Hiding Out" take no prisoners with its full speed guitar licks never letting up. The Flying Burrito Brothers should have cut "Can't Make Love Make Sense" if only the time-space continuum could be overcome.
There are wonderful ballads ("If It Hadn't Been For You" "Something 'Bout Forever" "When I Finally Let You Go") and full speed country rockers ("That's What She Said" "Hold That Thought"). Bill Lloyd even contributes his typical 60s-vibed dream pop rock on "Don't Throw It Away". There isn't a dud in the bunch.
Their time at country radio as a duo might be a thing of the past, but every one of these songs should be cut by today's Nashville hopefuls (and even some of the established artists). In fact, they should be falling all over themselves to get in line to do so.
In the scheme of today's musical reunions, Foster & Lloyd are not likely to register the box office earthquake of the Eagle. However, the long term impact of It's Already Tomorrow should be great if there's any justice. The confidence these two veterans show here bodes well for a continuing partnership. There's no earthly reason to stop now.
- Jim Markel