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Music Review: Angie Foster – Hurry Up and Wait

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There was a time when the label of “pop music” wasn’t such a bad thing.  For most recording artists, having their music become popular just means that a lot of people like it. It’s usually one of their primary goals.

On the other hand, what makes an artist cringe is the thought that their music is merely being linked to one style that is being embraced by fans of the current chart topping artists of the day, such as Katy Perry and Lady Gaga.  Fortunately, pop music evolves over time and it constantly gets redefined. Music lovers can revisit a certain style of “pop music” whenever they want.  Good songs and musicianship, regardless of the style, will find an audience.

On Angie Foster’s second CD, Hurry Up and Wait, her songs hearken back to a time when the piano was at the forefront of some of the best pop/rock produced in the 1970s, 1980s, and beyond, by such notable artists as: Billy Joel, Elton John, Carole King, Toto, Bruce Hornsby, Sarah McLachlan, Norah Jones, and more recently, Alicia Keys and Sara Bareilles.  The disc has a nice mix of up-tempo  pop/rock songs (“Way It Should Be,” “Further to Fall,” “Looking for You,” and “Let it Go”), along with some R&B-flavored ballads (“Make it Alright” and “East West Café”), and even a swing/jazz track (“Why Do I Love That Man”).

Ms. Foster wrote all the songs and co-produced the album with producer Bob Stark (Everclear, The Shins, and Pink Martini).  It was recorded at Kung Fu Bakery Studios (Everclear, The Decemberists) in Portland, Oregon.  This disc is currently garnering a lot of attention on Internet radio stations across the country. 

Hurry Up and Wait strikes a good balance with songs that are well suited for adult contemporary and rock radio formats.  The first thing that stood out to me as I listened to the leadoff track, “Way It Should Be,” was the crisp, rolling piano intro and her soulful, rich, lead and background vocals.  One of the recurring themes of the album is the experience of trying to make a relationship work over the long haul and knowing when to cut and run. After listening to the entire disc, I found myself favorably comparing Ms. Foster’s piano style to that of Sara Bareilles and David Paich (Toto).

“Looking For You” starts off with a recurring electric guitar riff interspersed with acoustic piano. This particular song shows off Ms. Foster’s ability to tackle some harder edged rock material.  Her mezzo soprano range allows her to sing in a lower register with confidence and also reach the higher notes when necessary.  One of Ms. Foster’s major influences is Pat Benatar, and you can immediately make that connection after hearing this tune. It sounds like something from Ms. Benatar’s Crimes of Passion album (i.e., “I Want Out”).

As I listened to some of the ballads on the album, Ms. Foster’s knack for switching gears and introducing new instrumental twists on each track helped maintain my interest throughout.  It is nice to listen to a record and not find yourself knowing exactly what is coming up next.  For example, “Can’t Hold On” and “Make it Alright” have a nice R&B-flavored groove, thanks to the Memphis/Stax rhythm guitar playing of Tim Ellis, and a horn section led by Paul Mazzio on trumpet, Tim Jensen on saxophone, and Jeff Uusitalo on trombone.  Ms. Foster’s soulful lead vocals and piano fills stand out on these tracks.

“East West Café” is a ballad that lends itself to being played without any accompaniment besides piano.  It tells the story of a woman returning to a place where she first met an old flame.  She was on the fence about making the trip back to her old stomping grounds, but she did.  And like a lot of places that serve as the locale for pleasant feelings from our past, when she returned to that special place, those feelings weren’t there anymore. Too much time had elapsed.  Ms. Foster’s lead vocals are delivered here with exquisite tenderness.  If you like this song, I’d also recommend “Oregon Sky,” a non-album track that just might be her best ballad of all.

In the last five years or so, Portland has cultivated a thriving community of musicians who have found success as independent artists and have subsequently emerged as successful mainstream acts (The Decemberists, Pink Martini, Everclear, Chris Walla of Death Cab For Cutie, and Peter Buck of R.E.M. are just a few of the folks who now call it their home).  As a veteran of the Portland club scene, Ms. Foster clearly has carved out a niche as a singer/songwriter/keyboardist with the requisite savvy and musicianship to emerge as the next artist to earn mainstream success from Portland. There’s room for the next great female singer/songwriter. And I think she’s going to be from Portland.

Hurry Up and Wait is available for purchase at ITunes, Amazon.com, and CD Baby.

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About Carl J. Mancuso