Revisiting Radney Foster's "See What You Want To See"

Radney Foster has long been cherished by folks in the Nashville songwriting and artist community as one of the best working songwriters in town.  With the release of "I'm In," Keith Urban reminds folks of this great album from 1999 that features 3 other hit tracks.

Eleven years ago singer/songwriter Radney Foster moved on from his mainstream country star career with the release of his third album See What You Want To See for the short-lived Arista Austin label and while it was one of the first ‘amerciana’ albums that mixed roots country with roots rock and more ‘experimental’ sounds, an odd thing has happened to that album since its release.  Four separate songs have been recorded from the record.  Keith Urban was the first to record one of  the songs when he cut “Raining On Sunday” for his Golden Road album and then the Dixie Chicks mined “Godspeed (Sweet Dreams)” for their Home album.  Pat Green then recorded “The Lucky Ones” for his album of the same name and now Keith Urban has come back to the album a dedade later and has released “I’m In,” a song that has been recorded by the Kinleys as well.   

What’s interesting about this development is that Foster was seemingly ahead of his time with the album, much like Marcus Hummon was with his All In Good Time album and it’s four hit singles for other artists.  In fact, “Rainin’ On Sunday” on See What You Want To See has an interesting guest vocalist on it in Darius Rucker, who provides audible harmony vocals.  Back when the song was recorded, Rucker was a Rock star who was a big fan of Radney Foster.  “I’m In” was a ‘duet’ with Texas pop/rocker Abra Moore and “Godspeed (Sweet Dreams)” is an intimate song written for Radney’s then toddler son to listen to as a lullaby.  

The rest of the album is interesting in that it sounds not too far removed from some mainstream songs nowadays and I can actually picture some more of these tunes finding a home in the hearts of country stars.  “I’ve Got A Picture” is the opening cut on the album and despite a wallflowers-like bassline, the song could really find a home on another star’s album as Radney has written a lyrically fantastic song about the ending of a relationship and how his partner has her thoughts all planned out while he doesn’t have any clue about it.  It’s an interesting way to look at a relationship just as “Folding Money” is a very interesting tune about the way ‘folding money’ can make the world easier when you need it. 

“Angry Heart” finds Radney hitting some great falsetto notes in the chorus and like the rest of the songs mentioned above, there are some current artists in Nashville that could take this and make it their own (Gary Allan?).  While this album is very much a Radney Foster album (and one of his best) See What You Want To See has turned into a songwriter’s gem, the kind that artists love because they’re fans of Radney Foster but when looking for songs they come back to it and cherry pick some tunes from it. 

So while this album, like the previously mentioned Marcus Hummon album, never made Radney Foster a ton of money as an artist, it has been a fruitful album full of sharp, ahead of their time songs.  11 years after being released See What You Want To See is still an album that feels of the moment and perhaps that’s why it’s still being mined for hits.  Radney Foster is an oft-recorded songwriter but perhaps none of his own albums has been as fruitful as See What You Want To See.  And that’s what makes it an album ahead of its time.

You can support Radney Foster by purchasing this album at Amazon | iTunes.