"It's gotta get dark enough for you to see the stars," Radney Foster sings on the title track of his newest album. A portion of that lyric serves as the title to its accompanying book, For You to See the Stars, a collection of short stories that offers a meaningful backstory for each song.
But, make no mistake, there's nothing dark about this latest project and brand new foray into the world of book publishing. What results is a literary talent that, perhaps, should have been evident all along given Foster's knack for storytelling in songs. After all, he's the one who warned us that "Nobody wins, slammin' doors," and the importance of bending to keep from breaking in a hit song he cowrote with Kim Richey recorded and released back in 1993. It is but one of many he has churned out over the years that do more than offer a hook, catchy melody, or chorus.
For You to See the Stars proves his talent translates on the pages of a book as much as it does while penning a lyric or performing onstage with his guitar. He can churn out prose that flows through a reader's mind with the same rhythmic quality that makes him a prolifically gifted songwriter. Fans had two chances, recently, to see the triple threat in action here in Charleston. Luckily, I was fortunate enough to attend both.
The first was an intimate gathering at independent bookstore Buxton Books on Cumberland Street downtown. Part reading, part performance, Foster shared the space with J.C. Sasser, a friend and local Lowcountry author of Gradle Bird.
The two share the same publisher, Working Title Farms. The entire evening felt like a quaint dinner party minus dinner with laughs and inside jokes that made me feel like I was in his living room or sitting around a firepit in his backyard passing bourbon. His collection of short stories made me feel that way, too. Like I know him, like he and I are friends, like he may call me up for a night of bourbon-drinking, knee-slapping, story-swapping fun. What followed was a more traditional performance the next night at Woolfe Street Playhouse off of Upper King.
His backstage meet-and-greet with fans offered me a glimpse into the same friend I'd met the night before which solidified my opinion of him as warm, sincere, genuine, and downright funny in addition to being talented. He peppered his performances with readings from the stage and long-time fans soaked up every minute of music and stories with the legendary singer/songwriter-turned-author. Radney Foster gave a lot of credit to his editor, Shari Smith, of Working Title Farm, for helping him perfect this latest project.
The chemistry between the two was evident during the time I spent with them at Buxton Books, and, while, I have no doubt she whipped his prose into shape, he deserves all the credit for his natural ability. That same raw talent has carried him through decades of success in the country music industry and will follow him wherever he goes in the world of publishing.