Jonathan Foster - Roadside Attraction (2023)
Jonathan Foster's quite pleasing album, Lantern Shade, and last year I featured his one-off single, "The Mountain Echo," that has since become part of his new album, Roadside Attraction.
I wrote before that Foster is more of a singer-songwriter than a folk musician but on this set - because the Californian's usually sparse arrangements are simply a foundation for his contemplative lyrics - the opposite is true.
It's uncanny how many artists gravitate toward making music their vocal chords are best suited for. Foster possesses the voice of a true folk singer and it's a perfect fit. I can envision these songs being covered by the likes of John Prine, Kris Kristofferson, Townes Van Zandt, or any other singer with an earthy voice. A huge set of vocal chords owned by the full-throated frontmen of many 70s and 80s arena rock bands would be totally out of place on Foster's sixth record that offers nine original songs and "The Cukoo," a traditional folk tune.
Roadside Attraction is a very personal album. It's full of nostalgia, the freedom of driving through the southwest, the singer's thoughts about our climate, and his attempts to live his life the way he wants to.
"When You Leave" examines Foster's nostalgic feelings about leaving a place he yearns to comes back to, and "Cottonwood Vines" discusses his desire to make wine while returning to another place his heart needs to be, "Well I wish I were back in those Cottonwood vines, Trimming fruit in the morning during harvest time." "Lander Spring" is another song about his beloved desert southwest.
The first track, "The Anchor," tells the tale of Foster's own personal self-doubt, and "The Mountain Echo" is not only a song title, it's the name of his school's yearbook.
Americana Highways said it best. "Foster is original in his songwriting and his ability to tell stories through his music. If you mixed John Denver, Gordon Lightfoot, and Blaze Foley all together you would get Foster." High praise for a first rate talent.