Who would have thought that after the winding, labyrinthine musical journey singer and songwriter Josephine Foster has been on since her 2005 debut, Hazel Eyes, I Will Lead You, she'd eventually make her way back to writing and recording in the Americana vein? There have been albums of children's songs, the poems of Emily Dickinson, neo-psychedelia, Spanish folk songs of the Anda Jaleo, and a rock-ballet chanté. I'm a Dreamer was recorded in Nashville with the truly gifted pianist Micah Hulscher and a host of players including husband Victor Herrero, Chris Scruggs, and Tommy Perkinson. Foster wrote all but one song, the closer, a gorgeous cover of Vernon Duke's standard "Cabin in the Sky" (revisioned as a parlor song). She also uses a Rudyard Kipling poem for the lyrics to "Blue Roses." Opener "Sugarpie I'm Not the Same" is swinging country blues that floats to the present via the barroom stages of the postwar years. It's a delightful shuffle with Hulscher's honky tonk flourishes and a Foster harmonica solo. The brushed drums and acoustic guitars frame her distinctive voice and bittersweet lyric. Scruggs' weepy steel guitar colors the forlorn "No One's Calling Your Name," as Hulscher punctuates Foster's sweet yet mournful lines. The simmering desire in "My Wandering Heart" is underscored by Dave Roe's double bass that leads the gently swinging ensemble; in her delivery, Foster unhurriedly allows the words to drip from her mouth subtly, yet provocatively, like honey. "Pretty Please" weds postwar American country to the lyric and melodic savvy of Stephen Foster. The spare, bleed-through mix of "Magenta" finds cello, brushed snare, piano, and a restrained, reverbed electric guitar barely illustrating Foster's mezzo-soprano. The effect is warm, tender, seductive, brimming with eros disguised as sentiment. "This Is Where the Dreams Head, Maude" finds its root in early-'30s speakeasies. Its gently swaying 4/4 weds jazz, early country, and blues in a gauzy nocturnal whole. Though I'm a Dreamer harks back to Foster's down-home roots, she is much more sophisticated as a writer and arranger. She is in full command of her vision, which articulates a unique musical language here, formulated in familiar tropes. Given how mercurial she's been, this stylistic return may be temporary, but it's so fully realized, it's also a most welcome one.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek