Are You Ready for the Big Show (Dualtone)
Reviewed by Jim Caligiuri, Fri., June 29, 2001
Are You Ready for the Big Show? (Dualtone)Recorded at the one and only Continental Club in September 2000, Radney Foster's Are You Ready for the Big Show? isn't your standard live album. Instead of just reprising his hits in front of an audience of fans, Foster mixes new arrangements of some better-known tunes with five new songs; the result is a delightfully different listening experience. With a band that includes Nickel Creek's Chris Thile on mandolin and Mike McAdam (Steve Earle, Jack Ingram) on slide guitar, Foster embraces a wide range of musical styles with the fire and grace he's become known for. "Just Call Me Lonesome" is turned into swaying acoustic-style blues, while "Nobody Wins" winds up as a burning country rocker, both testaments to Foster's songwriting prowess. It takes a sharp pen to re-form one's own songs and retain their melodic and lyrical strength, and he succeeds masterfully. Of the new songs, the anthemic "School of Hard Knocks" and the elegant, simple emotions of "How You Play the Hand" stand out, showing that Foster's distinctive songwriting ability endures. There are two "hidden" tunes at the end of the disc, and though a reprise of set opener "Tonight" seems superfluous, the duet with Pat Green on Foster & Lloyd chestnut "Texas in 1880" is a smoking, Texas-style rocker that does the late, lamented duo proud. All in all, an accurate snapshot of another night of South Austin musical magic.