Origin: Woodstock, Ontario
Life and death. Love and hate. Wealth and poverty. Sickness and health. Whatever it is you want in this life — or want to avoid in this life — it might be closer than you think.
"Time, distance, events: They're all relative," says singer-songwriter and guitar slinger Glen Foster, explaining the title of his latest album Not Far Away. "Some things seem like they're a long way off when in fact they're very close, while other things seem so close when they're actually far off. Life is full of coincidences and connections and uncertainty."
That's never been truer than today. Even so, there are still some things you can count on — like the impeccable craftsmanship, stellar musicianship and life-affirming positivity this respected B.C. veteran always brings to the table. Not Far Away, his fifth album with the Glen Foster Group in a decade, is no exception. Though it is an album unlike any he's made before. With nine tracks that run the rootsy gamut from country-pop and rockabilly to skiffle, Celtic folk and even soul-stirring gospel — not to mention arrangements that incorporate everything from strings and choir to harp and ragtime tack piano — it's far and away the most ambitious and multi-faceted work of his career. "This album could easily be a vinyl LP with lively uptempo songs on Side 1, while Side 2 is more folky and laid back, with violins and strings," he says, jokingly christening his sound "Cathedral Rock" after the album's title photograph featuring the famous Arizona butte.
For all its grandeur and majesty, however, Not Far Away also houses some of the most spiritual, philosophical and emotionally grounded lyrics Foster has penned. The playfully titled album opener Dusty Roads: Ode To Dusty Rhodes is not a tribute to a wrassler, but a moving salute to a stage manager whose biker persona masked a heart of gold. Fittingly, the track is anchored by a gorgeous Fender Rhodes electric piano, superbly played by longtime go-to-guy Marty Steele. Then there's Brains Brawn and Beauty, a classic rocker whose lyrics "speak to determination, making it and not being denied," Foster says. He ought to know — he's been performing the song for more than 25 years. For its long-overdue debut on vinyl, he pulled out all the stops, adding a tense silent movie-style interlude that begs to be depicted on video. Equally scenic is Dalgety Bay, a Celtic folk number inspired by a village on the Firth of Forth that is home to friends.
Speaking of friendship, connection and closeness: Fruit of the Spirit fuses Biblical quotes, honky-tonk country, violin and even a harp to create a song that Foster calls "a message for all of humanity and faiths without borders: Love, joy, goodness, kindness, peace, faithfulness, patience, gentleness, self-control." Finally, Somewhere Over The River: Somewhere Under The Rainbow closes the album with lush gospel tones featuring a bass solo by Jay Stevens, tenor sax from Pierre Komen, the Cryptomnesia Choir, and B3 organ played by Foster — all united in a song that came to him in a dream, as sung by Tom Petty during a mid-concert blackout. Between those touchstones, you'll find rockabilly raveups, party-hearty anthems and even a shot of old-school, harmony-rich skiffle inspired by influential British legend Lonnie Donegan. And of course, all the tracks boast Foster's tastefully blazing fretwork and casually personable vocals.
Whether working the fretboard or the microphone, he makes it all look easy. Of course, easy is easier said than done. It only comes with decades of blood, sweat, toil and tears. Foster knows that first-hand. For him, music is a lifelong labour of love. He grew up on a balanced diet of guitar bands like The Ventures and Santo and Johnny, pop icons like The Beatles and Beach Boys, and singer-songwriters like Bob Dylan, Neil Young and Paul Simon. He's criss-crossed the country with countless bands, backing Ray Materick of Linda, Put the Coffee On fame and fronting his own group The Falcon. He's gigged with everyone from Lighthouse, Dr. Hook and Stan Rogers to Valdy and Sammy Hagar. He's played Massey Hall, the El Mocambo, The Ian Tyson Show and the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. He worked with Daniel Lanois when the famed producer's studio was still in the basement of his mother's house. Bottom line: He's been there, done that.
Along the way, he's created an impressive catalogue of adventurous, meticulously crafted music: Two Falcon albums, and five with the Glen Foster Group. GFG's 2010 debut Trusted Tried and True featured guests like David Gogo, Gerry Barnum and The Turtle Doves. The 2012 concept album The Reckoning raised the bar with political lyrics inspired by the Occupy Movement and Arab Spring. 2015's acoustic outing Leaving the Lagoon featured bagpipes, while 2017's groovy, celebratory Music Alchemy co-starred a horn section. He's even got a best-selling holiday single: The Spirit of Christmas, released in 1986 and remastered in 2011 for its 25th anniversary.
If it sounds like Foster changes his tune with every release, you're right. "I don't bother to write a song that sounds like something else," he says. "For me to be inspired about something I'm writing, it has to be new. It has to be fresh. That's the kind of thing that lights my fire and gets me excited. I am kind of a stickler for excellence. But then it's great to improvise. That's when the free spirit will flow."
With Not Far Away finally arriving and a slate of narrative videos in the works, it's abundantly clear that Foster's creative spirit is flowing as strong as ever. Or, to put it another way: So far, so good.
Party Out There Tonight Apr 9, 2019 Glen Foster Group 4 song EP. Includes Rockabilly Fever and the
Title Song (co-written by Glen Foster the musician and Glen Foster the comedian 'That Canadian Guy')
Music Alchemy June 1, 2017 Featuring: Mark Crissinger, David Gogo, Paul Gogo (Trooper)
Singles: Crashing Down, Cactus Whiskey, Stepping Out On Saturday Night, Joe The Crow
Leaving The Lagoon Dec 1, 2015 #1 on CHLY 101.7 Nanaimo Top 30 in Dec2015 and Jan2016, #13 on The Independent Radio Show Playlist (syndicated to over 3000 radio stations), added to CBC National Radio Virtual Music Library
The Reckoning Sept 1, 2012 Videos: Reckoning, This That These & Those, Someday (It’ll All Work Out), Easy Rolling. Single: Pixelated Man
Trusted Tried & True Feb 1, 2010 Guests: David Gogo, Gerry Barnum, The Turtle Doves. Destination Desolation Sound video appeared on BC Tourism website for the ‘Vancouver, Coast and Mountains Region’.
Walk Into The Mirror/The Falcon Apr 1, 2008 compilation CD of two previous albums, including the single Los Angeles winner of a 1980 talent contest on CKOC Radio, Hamilton.
The Spirit of Christmas and The Twelve Guitars of Christmas, a 45 rpm single on Red Vinyl was initially released in 1986 and received national airplay in Canada. The 25 year anniversary re-release of Nov 2011 features digitally re-mastered mixes.