Radney Foster is a profound songwriter. When he hasn’t been delivering his own vocals to songs he’s written, he’s been offering his prolific writing chops to some of the biggest names in Nashville and Texas.
Foster has only gotten better with age, and that’s readily apparent on his latest offering, For You to See the Stars (out Sept. 15). This time, he’s going against the grain of typicality by releasing both an album and a book of the same name. They’ve inspired each other, and Foster says it’s up to you to decide which art form inspired the other first.
At 58, Foster is approaching that golden period in life where he’s all the wiser, and it shows. Like many country greats, Radney Foster’s expert storytelling is the glue that holds his entire ambitious project together.
For You to See the Stars is an inspired adventure through stories so clearly inspired by Foster’s own heart that you can’t help but empathize with its heroes. From the joyous family nights spent together on “Greatest Show on Earth” or the young-hearted ode to a lover on “Raining On Sunday,” Foster has crafted his greatest collection of music yet.
The album’s titular opener is a gorgeous reflection on a family that, in the face of loss, has finally come together again. The closing track, “Sycamore Creek,” doesn’t hold back from feeling like an ode to a lost relationship. Yet, it also revels in something new and good that only could have come from having faced such a struggle first.
The magnum opus is “All That I Require,” a warning of fascism that’s taking today’s world by storm. The song is a stark break from the gentle sweetness and remembrance that pervades much of For You to See the Stars. The accompanying music video for the song showcases various times in modern history where fascism has taken control, such as in the regimes of Hitler and Stalin.
For You to See the Stars’ overacrching theme is that no matter how hard it gets, there’s always hope. The heroes are not without their share of issues to overcome; it’s that they either get through them or that they’re slowly coming to terms with the fact that they can that makes the difference.
Foster’s choices for song arrangement and sound design decisions when mastering the album only help to elevate the beautiful stories that it tells. In the end, For You to See the Stars as a sonic work is a masterpiece.
The same soul that Foster bears in his musical rendition of For You to See the Stars is just as present in the accompanying book. Radney Foster, the author, has a certain way with words that comes across just as well as Radney Foster, the singer-songwriter. This might be his first book outing, but you wouldn’t have known it if you weren’t told. It’s a thrilling read from start to finish with overarching themes of love and reflection that tie it all together.
Foster draws links between the importance of love, family and reflection through a collection of 10 short stories. The titular “book opener” expands on the heartening story from the song of the same name. In it, a family who has long been estranged from one another comes together again after the passing of a loved one. The deceased, in this story, plays more of a direct hand in healing his family than one might expect.
That same kind of heart persists throughout the other nine other stories in the book. In the face of adversity, loss and terror, there’s a hope that brings all of us underneath these stars together.
Foster’s success as a songwriter didn’t came around just because he was capable of writing a pretty melody or an ingenious riff; he’s a people’s person writing people’s stories in song—and now, in book form too.