Let’s get this out of the way first: Every time I looked at the title for this record – the first full length from Kenny Foster in five years – I had Counting Crows “Omaha” in my head.

But, to get right to the heart of the matter, it’s Kenny Foster who matters more (with due apologies to Adam Duritz for mangling his lyrics) because his second album is very, very good indeed.

It actually kicks off with the title track, and it’s tale of small town USA treads some old ground, but it does so in its own way. There’s strings here and some discordant rhythms to set this apart.

And those words: “sets this apart” rather exemplifies this record. “Poor Kids” is the work of a supreme singer/songwriter (he’s had praise from Rolling Stone and been on two Super Bowl Commercials, so its not just me saying it), but it manages to put you right in the heart of the lives of the children who are “never gonna have what they did”. “They” in this case, I’d wager is everyone else, given the feel of this.

“Copy, Paste, Repeat” is perhaps the best of them. A world weary delivery, and there’s a line in it that seems to speak to me, and maybe millions of others. “In time,” offers Foster, “he’ll grow to love what he’s settled for.” It’s wonderful, and has echoes of a classic song that was released 42 years ago this week. “The River” by Springsteen isn’t a comparison I get out lightly, either.

Together with Producers Mitch Dane and Vance Powell – the latter has worked with some of the finest artists of a generation from Clutch to Chris Stapleton – Foster has crafted some special songs here. “Driveway” will cause people everywhere to suck a thoughtful tooth and get lost in a reverie, while “Farmer” and its longing for escape, but being trapped will do likewise.

“Dreams” (“I was gonna marry my babysitter, even though I was only half her age”) is typical of the fresh angle that Foster finds on well worn themes,  and its use of language is always interesting. “I’m a longform man, in a soundbite world” as he says on “For What It’s Worth” is gorgeous and poetic, but it holds a greater truth. This is an album that isn’t the most “modern”. That’s to its credit.

Most of these are slow paced but there’s nothing like a full on ballad, instead “The One” casts him as a kind of dress rehearsal, and “Country Heart” describes the girl as being “a little bit Waylon and a little bit rock n roll” and you instantly know what it means.

We haven’t discussed the music too much. That’s because it always finds a perfect way to blend in, as it does on “Good For Growing Up” or the quite lovely “Said To Somebody”, so loaded with regret that it simply has to be personal. “Find The Others” looks for a connection in the 21st century, which isn’t easy to do, before “The Same” ends things with a song about fathers. Ostensibly its about Foster’s, but it could be about anyone’s who wants better for his children than he has.

And that’s the thing about Kenny Foster, he might be from Missouri, but these songs on “Somewhere In Middle America” belong to us all. Mention of Springsteen and Counting Crows was deliberate too, as they can create a similar universality. It’s a gift and Kenny Foster clearly has it too.

Rating 9/10

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