With It's Already Tomorrow, Foster and Lloyd prove they've still got it — an album's worth at the very least 

The Comeback Kids

The Comeback Kids

This Foster and Lloyd reunion could've gone very differently. It's been no less than 20 years since they called it quits, and back in the day — as documented by three albums and a best-of collection — they'd had the sort of fresh, youthful energy that just can't be manufactured. For a moment there, they were the next big thing — a Beatles- and Buck Owens-loving dynamic duo charting on a major country label.

Radney Foster and Bill Lloyd have each done a lot in the music business since then. Foster's been having a good run as a neo-trad Texas country act, with sizable cuts and producer credits to boot. He's also seen the darker side of the industry: Label support slipped right out from under 1999's polished pop album See What You Want to See. Lloyd's been no less busy, releasing power-pop albums, getting cuts, playing sessions and producing — not to mention his respectable work with the First Amendment Center and the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. But during his tenure with country supergroup The Sky Kings, he also saw their albums shelved by two separate labels.

So how did Foster and Lloyd manage to give It's Already Tomorrow — their first album since 1990 — more kick than they'd ever had, without any accumulated business baggage? "I don't think we were overthinking it," says Foster from a tour stop in Texas. "We were just two old friends getting back together and really having a good time writing some good songs. And that put us, I think, in that youthful spot where we didn't feel like we were having to do something for something, so we didn't really self-edit that much." He laughs, "That's how you get 'That's What She Said.' "

Lloyd elicits further laughter from Foster with a wry comment about their sense of timing. "We wanted a healthy business model to return to," he says. "We wanted to wait until it was just about over before we [came back]. Nobody can say we're doing this for the money, I'll tell you that."

The song Foster is referring to, "That's What She Said," is a hooky, smart-ass twang-rock number that goes exactly where it sounds like it would — one of many witty, hormone-charged pop triumphs on the new album. There's also "Can't Make Love Make Sense" and "Hold That Thought," which features power-chord riffing from Cheap Trick's Tom Petersson.

These days, there's just plain more rock attack to Foster and Lloyd's sound, and Foster offers an explanation: "One journalist at one point back then said, 'OK, so Rank and File and The Blasters are rock bands, but you guys and Steve Earle are country acts. Why is that?' Bill rightly said, 'Because they got signed to a rock label and we got signed to country labels.' You, by natural attrition, just go, 'Well, I'll just dial it 10 percent more this way, or 10 percent more that way.' The cool thing about not having those parameters [now] is you don't have to worry about that."

"I can tell you, just guitar-sound-wise, I don't feel like I have to tame anything down," adds Lloyd. "I mean, we're not thinking radio formats anymore. We're just thinking about pleasing ourselves. And whatever crunch that Radney and I are not afraid to dial in to our guitars, we also have the extra crunch of Tom Petersson sounding like Cheap Trick."

Petersson is playing bass for Foster and Lloyd (Cheap Trick recorded a song of Lloyd's and enlisted him as a guitarist for some Sgt. Pepper's tribute shows), and the band is rounded out by Foster's longtime drummer Keith Brogdin. It's the same core lineup that played the gig that restarted it all last year — a benefit show for the Americana Music Association.

But It's Already Tomorrow isn't all amped-up energy. There are other noticeably new and welcome additions to the duo's repertoire—songs that reflect on the passage of time. The title track, for one, isn't the sort of thing they would've written in the late '80s.

"I don't think we had enough life experiences at that point," says Foster. "Hopefully, any songwriter worth his salt will mature as you get older, in sort of a lyrical sense. But what you hope is that you don't lose sight of the energy that it took to get you where you are as a writer in the first place."

Email music@nashvillescene.com.

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