When Jeffrey Dean Foster and his band The Pinetops released Above Ground and Vertical in 1998, folks had been waiting a long time for an album from the Winston-Salem-area artist. I was a member of that impatient group, but having first encountered Foster when he opened a '94 Cat's Cradle show for Jimmie Dale Gilmore, my wait time was comparatively brief. Plenty of other fans had been looking forward to an album since the late '80s, when Foster's band, The Right Profile, had a record deal head south at the last minute. All of that background is just to explain why you're not going to find me bellyaching about a stopgap live EP, even one that revisits three tunes from Above Ground. Nope, I'll take anything anytime from Foster, a roots-rock troubadour with psych-rock sympathies--a guy with Steve Forbert, Tom Petty, Marc Bolan and Ian Hunter all peacefully coexisting in his head and heart. Plus, the three Above Ground tracks--"Lottery," "Jesus Spoke" and "So Lonesome I Could Fly" (covered by Marti Jones on her new album)--are presented here in solo acoustic mode, recorded at Winston-Salem's homey, funky Garage. These three performances show that Foster's compositions, alternately graceful and galloping, are the kind that can stand up to being stripped-down. It works both ways: When you listen to "Skin and Bone," one of four new songs on the EP, you just may find yourself mentally adding some loud and fuzzy guitars to the mix. Not that it needs it, but just 'cause it's fun. And the broadcast clips and other incidental sounds that link the songs show that Foster has been enjoying his Sparklehorse records.
Available at www.jeffreydeanfoster.com.