Monday, April 4, 2011

Radney Foster & Pat Green: Texas In 1880

It is not often where I feature an artist who covers his own song; however, today’s selection is one of those rare occasions. I love this song and even learned it in 1987 when it was the third of four singles from Foster & Lloyd’s self titled debut album. I remember seeing them on Austin City Limits and within a few days, I bought the cassette and played it death while on the road. I was reminded of this because the cassette just surfaced about a month ago.

The duo was made of Bill Lloyd and Radney Foster. Note the spelling of his name is RAD-ney; I wonder if he had a dollar for every time in his life that he was called either Randy or Rodney how rich would he be. Anyway, Foster and Lloyd broke on the scene with their debut LP and garnered three top ten singles and “Texas in 1880” which peaked on Billboard’s Hot Country Charts at 18. The album charted at #33 on the Country Album Charts. This was a fairly good showing for a debut record.

Foster & Lloyd had a unique country-rock sound reminiscent in places of The Byrds’ country-rock period and harmonies that were compared to the Everly Brothers. I always wondered why they never could sustain their run at the charts. Were they too late with their sound missing the fledgling country-rock era of the 70s or too early missing the “country is cool” phase of the 90s? Perhaps the promotional department of RCA Nashville didn’t know what to do with this band. I guess we will never know for sure.

Another duo, Brooks & Dunn, were country chart favorites from 1991 until they called it quits last year. If Foster & Lloyd had waited four years to hit the scene would their stab at the charts have been any different? Speaking of Brooks and Dunn, what if Radney Foster and Kix Brooks teamed up – they could be known as Foster Brooks. I guess you have to be of a sufficient age to appreciate that joke.

In 2001, Radney Foster and Pat Green covered the old Foster & Lloyd 1987 hit and tried a run at the charts. I would imagine that Foster saw the potential in his own song that he chose to rerecord it and see if it could do better the second time around; however, it didn’t as it only charted at #54 on the country charts. The album, “Ready for the Big Show” failed to chart.

The arrangement mirrors the original; however, an addition of an organ, mandolin, piano, and slide guitar (probably a lap steel) add to the newness of this version. It also features the harmony vocals of then up-and-coming country artist Pat Green. In a few years, Green would have his own hit with “Wave on Wave.”

The Foster & Lloyd Original

As stated earlier, I loved this song the first time I heard it in Austin City Limits, although I have no partiality towards cowboys, rodeos, or the decade of the 1880s. In fact, I’ve never been to a rodeo and have no plans of every attending one – it is the music and not the subject of the song that grabbed me.

Although missing the instrumentation of the cover, this song is fine the way it is and it doesn’t need anything else. Guitars, bass, and drums are enough for this 1987 hit. By the way, Foster and Lloyd have reformed as of the end of last year. Expect the release of their new CD "It's Already Tomorrow" sometime this spring.

1 comment:

  1. I have their debut album on CD (wore out my cassette) and a terrific "Best Of" collection. I'd made my cassette from a promo LP and the other side of the tape had Marshall Crenshaw's "Downtown" album. Those two records are part of my late 80's soundtrack of life.