Walter Tunis: '10 in 20' music project celebrates recording's release with help from all of its artists

Contributing Music WriterNovember 8, 2012 

Duane Lundy, left, of Shangri-la Productions worked with members of Killer Meteor during their recording session for the 10 in 20 project.

MARK CORNELISON — Herald-Leader Buy Photo


    Radney Foster at Natasha's Bistro: Two of the more telling moments from this solo acoustic concert came when Foster stripped down to elemental slices of folkish drama a pair of original tunes (Raining on Sunday and I'm In) that became hits for country star Keith Urban.

    "This is the West Texas version," said Foster before each song. And, true, the darker, starker treatments brought out a surprisingly rich Lone Star tenor in Foster's singing. Mostly, though, the performance illuminated a level of lyrical detail and color that sometimes gets buried on Foster's recordings.

    The veteran singer-songwriter's newest album, Del Rio, Texas Revisited: Unplugged and Lonesome, presented a partial deconstruction of Foster's music by retooling all of the songs from his 1992 solo debut album, Del Rio, Texas 1959, with bluegrass-leaning arrangements for small acoustic combos. Here, without any band, the potency of Foster's singing and writing beamed all the brighter.

    Recast Del Rio works such as the show-opening triad of Louisiana Blue, Don't Say Goodbye and Just Call Me Lonesome underscored the transformation. The heart of these tunes — and, indeed, of the entire performance — reflected an unadulterated country spirit.

    Foster's indie albums of the past decade promote him as more of an Americana songsmith. But this program, which only sparingly touched on those records, revealed what an expansive country soul lives within his songs, from the aged rodeo buck of Went for a Ride to the cowboys of Texas in 1880, a gem from the singer's days in the grand country duo Foster & Lloyd.

    Perhaps what separated this music from so much of the pop hokum that passes for country music today is that Foster favors story and characterization over cheap sentimentalism and audience pandering. A brilliant example was Angel Flight, a tune co-written by fellow Texas scribe Darden Smith that outlined the final journey of fallen servicemen and women ("Come on, brother. I'm taking you home").

    Country artists have often bonded themselves in almost parasitic fashion to war and the military. Foster's delivery of Angel Flight had none of that. Like the entire performance, it allowed a potent human story to unravel without patronizing excess. This was truly country with an honest, open, Texas-size heart.

'10 in 20' record-release party

10 p.m. Nov. 10 at Cosmic Charlie's, 388 Woodland Ave. $12. (859) 309-9499.

It has all come down to this. On Saturday, 10 in 20: A Lexington Recording Project gets to showcase its finished project. Needless to say, a party is in order.

Devised as a project that would give 10 local acts two days each to record a song at Lexington's Shangri-la Studios (hence, a cumulative period of 20 days), 10 in 20 is now set to release a vinyl compilation of that music.

It's a beautifully varied set that shifts from Wille Eames' rootsy guitar blues nugget Riot Goin' On to Englishman's bright pop reflection Man Like Me to Coralee and the Townies' honky-tonk party piece ProfessionaLoner.

The party comes Saturday at Cosmic Charlie's, when artists from all of the 10 in 20 acts will have a performance summit. Some will play on their own, and others will share members. The intended spirit is one of family, said Duane Lundy, who runs Shangri-la and has overseen 10 in 20 since its inception.

"We already know each other so well from sessions done here in the studio to playing in each other's bands. So it's nice that everyone is interested and still focused on helping the project out as a sort of Lexington family collective," he said.

The project used only 20 days of actual recording time, but the entirety of 10 in 20, from inception to realization, took considerably longer.

"The idea started about two years ago," Lundy said. "I pitched the idea to (Lexington attorney) Jennifer Miller. She worked with us in Chico Fellini (the local rock unit in which Lundy plays guitar) on an executive level. ... By February of 2011, we initiated the project. The first artist recordings were done that May. So I think by the time we run this weekend's gig and some other select shows I would like to put on around town, it will end up covering a couple of years."

The finished 10 in 20 album also is available digitally from

Nearly every step of the music's construction at Shangri-la has been chronicled in video entries on its Web site,, shot by photographer and videographer Mark Cornelison, who works at the Herald-Leader. Through those postings, the project has received some national exposure. The most prominent came from the indie music magazine Paste, which ran a feature story titled "10 Kentucky Bands You Should Listen to Now."

"I think that the feel of the project got us the national attention with Paste and with a couple other blog things that were happening," Lundy said. "Philosophically, though, the idea of the project was focused on giving me an opportunity to work with these parameters and these artists and that we would take it from there. The only thing I knew was that we were going to have the 10 artists and that we were going to put it out on vinyl. The rest of it was just 'let's just sort of see where we go from there.'"

Planned after Saturday's record-release party are a series of smaller local performances that would promote the project the same way a formal concert tour would promote most album releases. Those later shows are yet to be finalized. For now, Lundy is encouraged by the support that artists and patrons have shown 10 in 20 through all its stages of development.

"I was on a bit of a rant the other night about the music industry as a whole, which is easy to get me going on," he said. "But I feel completely the opposite about this project. I'm really uplifted about the whole thing. I think it shows that if you take a bunch of talented people who are focused and have the right sort of frame of mind, good things can happen."

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