Pop Goes the Country

It’s been nearly two decades since Radney Foster’s debut solo album, Del Rio, TX 1959, charted two top-10 hits (“Just Call Me Lonesome” and “Nobody Wins”). With its commercial-ready pop melodies and dance-hall instrumentation, Del Rio was at the vanguard of a new country music flavor, as much adult contemporary as honky-tonk. Nowadays just try finding a song on country radio that wouldn’t fit right in on VH1. You can’t do it. Foster and his contemporaries made country safe for the coasts and the coasts safe for country, and the rest is multiplatinum history.

The years since Foster’s salad days have been mixed for the Texas native. First he moved from Arista Nashville to the subsidiary Arista Austin label after sales started to slip with album No. 2, Labor of Love. Then he moved to independent Americana label Dualtone Music Group in 2001. This year marks Foster’s initiation into the world of self-released CDs. Even as his mass appeal faded through the ’90s, Foster’s songwriting remained in demand in Nashville, as it had been since the mid-1980s. Superstars like Tanya Tucker, Keith Urban and the Dixie Chicks have made a buck covering Foster’s songs, confirming his legacy as a tastemaker of contemporary pop-country.

Whether that legacy is something to cheer or decry is yours to decide, but Foster will make his case for the former at 9 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 29, at Gruene Hall (“Texas’ Oldest Dance Hall”) near New Braunfels, where he and his band, the Confessions, will celebrate the release of his latest CD, Revival. Gruene is a legendary venue of 20th-century country music, so it figures that Foster, one of the people responsible for dragging country into the 21st century, would feel at home there. See greunehall.com for info.

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Josh Rosenblatt writes about film from New York City.

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