Learning about Foster & Lloyd came as a bit of a shock, because my initial impressions of late 1980s country music weren’t inspiring, what with your Lee Greenwoods and Exiles and Alabamas (apologies to big fans of same) ruling the airwaves. But there were some gems amid the chiffon and soft focus male perms, and my education on that began one day in about 1993 when I had CMT on while putzing around the house, and suddenly there was this cat who looked nothing at all like the George Strait clones singing one of those songs that could turn almost anyone into a country music fan on first listen. He was Radney Foster and the song was his solo debut “Just Call Me Lonesome,” and I was enthralled. Further investigation revealed that Radney hadn’t just materialized out of Texas. He’d apparently been part of this duo.
Foster met Bill Lloyd when Lloyd signed on to Foster’s publishing company MTM, and they found their chemistry writing together, an effort that produced the hit “Since I Found You” for the Sweethearts of the Rodeo, a twangy poppy gal duet that proved to be a bit of a precursor to the duo of Foster & Lloyd. F&L’s first single “Crazy Over You” found an audience and reached the top of the country charts, even as it crossed over to college radio. Rootsy and poppy, influenced in equal measure by Buddy Holly, the Everly Brothers, The Beatles and Hank Williams, F&L proved country music could be fresh, accessible, twangy, jangly and rooted all at the same time. I was struck by how many similarities there were to the sound of the bands I’d been listening to as a North Carolina kid in high school, like the dBs and Let’s Active and the Connells. Maybe I’d been enjoying something like country music all along and not even knowing it.
Foster & Lloyd rolled for about four years, earning hits with “Texas in 1880,” “What Do You Want From Me This Time?” and others. In 1990, they parted ways and pursued rather amazing solo careers. Radney had some more country hits on his own and became a favorite in Texas and among Americana fans. Lloyd became a kingpin of power pop. And both wrote songs that would become memorable hits for a variety of country stars, from Trisha Yearwood to the Dixie Chicks. Bill meanwhile has been called on as a sideman and producer, plus he became curator of stringed instruments at the Country Music Hall of Fame and founder of the Long Players, Nashville’s most fascinating covers band.
Foster & Lloyd hadn’t played or recorded together in more than 20 years when a prod from the Americana Music Assn. led to a sold-out show and a realization. “It was so much fun getting back together onstage, and we realized that the new songs we had written together still had that magic,” says Foster in the duo’s current bio. “We decided to start getting together once a month to write. Soon the songs were pouring out, and we knew we needed to get back in the studio.” And they came up with It’s Already Tomorrow, a snapping shining collection of fresh material that scratches the F&L itch perfectly. Since its release about a month ago, old fans and critics who weren’t even adults when F&L was on the scene have welcomed this as one of the most enjoyable releases of the year.
All this to say that we’re very excited that Foster & Lloyd’s reunion tour will come to the Loveless Barn and Music City Roots this week. But they’re far from the only reason to come out and join us. We’ll open up with Daddy, fronted by another classic Music City duo of voices and writers, in this case Tommy Womack and Will Kimbrough. They couldn’t be a better bookend for the show. We feature as well two much acclaimed indie songwriters: Canada’s Doug Paisley and the mercurial and memorable Paleface. And we’ll get to hear the striking musical evolution of Tommy Ramone, who’s traded in his punk leather for a mandolin and a folky outlook on life in the duo Uncle Monk. So lots of duos and loads of good sounds once again this week. Wish it was already tomorrow.