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Karla Hayward
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Music review Solo artist Ian Foster releases new CD

When a solo artist releases two albums not even two years apart, you might not expect there to be a whole lot of growth or musical evolution to be heard. Not unless that artist is Ian Foster, of course.

Comparing "Room in the City," Foster's followup to 2006's "Through the Wires" is like comparing night and day. Put side by side they're a veritable portrait of the evolution of a songwriter.

Ian Foster performs during his CD release at The Fat Cat in St. John's Wednesday night. Photo by Gary Hebbard/The Telegram

When a solo artist releases two albums not even two years apart, you might not expect there to be a whole lot of growth or musical evolution to be heard. Not unless that artist is Ian Foster, of course.

Comparing "Room in the City," Foster's followup to 2006's "Through the Wires" is like comparing night and day. Put side by side they're a veritable portrait of the evolution of a songwriter.

The big picture

When The Telegram interviewed Foster in August 2007 as he toured in support of "Through the Wires" he said, "The next record is going to be focused more on cities ... It's not a concept record by any means - it's not a Pink Floyd album or anything - but it does have a unifying theme."

Obviously, Foster stayed true to his thematic vision, as "Room in the City" is certainly a big-picture album, one in which you can enjoy each song separately, but you can also take the 30,000-foot view of the disc as a single, cohesive creation.

Virtually every song on "Room" echoes the city theme, either overtly, as in "Map of a City" with its images of the singer waking up in the East End and driving the Outer Ring, or more obliquely as in "Sodium" where he sings "Under street lights/Now the sodium's in our bones."

A story in every song

"Room in the City" only confirms Foster's incredible calling as a songwriter. He even graciously transcribes his lyrics for listeners in the liner notes. Bless all musicians who do similar; wordy-folks around the world, thank you.

Straightforward, pure, and deeply emotional without ever verging on sappiness, "Room in the City" is an amazing album. Foster accomplishes that lovely magic where a listener feels like they actually know the musician at the end of the disc. Like you could start rumours about him that would turn out to be truths. Or even better, that maybe, just maybe Foster wrote one of those songs about you, for you.

Radio ready

There are easily five or six 'radio singles' to be found on "Room in the City." "If the Weather Holds" is built for a diverse audience of ears. Likewise "A Lesson in Geography." "Berlin" is hauntingly beautiful with Melanie O'Brien's incredible backup vocals raising neck-hairs at every listen.

Brad Morgan and Matt Fudge also lend their talent to the disc, but Foster's got a special guest for the last song on the album. 'Decisions' was co-written with the legendary Ron Hynes, who also lends his voice to the number. It's a delicate tune that showcases Hynes' well-known ability to transmit great emotion without a lot of flowery language. Both voices meld beautifully, the young and strong soaring over the slightly tremulous older.

Beyond the lyrics, "Room in the City" is largely built with guitar, strings and piano, but, you'll also hear some rarities like the marimba, glockenspiel and xylophone. It's a real treat for the ears.

"Room in the City" officially dropped Wednesday night at The Fat Cat to a lively and appreciative crowd. Melanie O'Brien warmed up listeners to great effect. The ever-awesome Kevin Kelly hosted with his usual aplomb and Foster was in his non-solo incarnation as part of The Ian Foster Band.

Buy this album. You won't regret it. Learn more about Ian Foster on his website.

Organizations: Pink Floyd

Geographic location: East End, Berlin

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