Country Blues Guitarist GLEN FOSTER Releases “White Funeral” From ‘Unnatural Tendencies’ Album

After four decades in the music business, Glen Foster has earned the right to break any rule he wants. And this happy iconoclast shows no signs of compromise on “White Funeral,” a whimsically morbid country-blues number that appears on his latest album, the trend-bucking Unnatural Tendencies.

Like a winking eulogy to a vanishing era, the song finds Foster chronicling the impending demise of one Old Snake, a “hardened old metaphoric character” who gets stranded in the desert just as it’s starting to snow.

It’s a sure sign of winter, the geese are flying south
A sure sign of winter, when you see that harvest moon full out
A sure sign of winter, it don’t leave much room for doubt
It’s going to be a White Funeral if Old Snake don’t make it out

Snake’s truck isn’t the only thing that’s breaking down here: It’s his life itself, as Foster’s plaintive yet sardonic vocal makes painfully apparent. All the while, the singer-songwriter-instrumentalist’s Dobro curlicues circle like hungry buzzards over the tasteful burial plot of a backing track laid down by his bandmates in the Glen Foster Group: Marg Foster (harmony vocals, percussion) Marty Steele (keyboards, harmony vocals), Colin Stevenson (bass guitar, harmony vocals) and James McRae (drums).

Playful elegia is just one of the many moods to be discovered on Unnatural Tendencies, a nonconformist manifesto of a record that plays like a defiant response to the winnowed attention spans and fixation on salability that are setting the direction of today’s musical culture. Few marketing consultants, after all, would encourage an artist to begin his album with a title track that’s nearly 17 minutes long and moves fluidly through three different songs, each in a different key but with the same chord progression and tempo. Nor would an A&R executive be turning cartwheels if said artist chose to include another number that incorporated a rapped intro, heavy guitar riffs, a satirical sitar hook, an accordion solo set to a polka beat, a bluegrass banjo break, and a highland bagpipe solo—oh, and a disco finale, complete with walking bass and falsetto vocals. Throw in some lyrical references to the plight of First Nations peoples and the pitfalls of religious obsession, and whammo! Instant anathema to the TikTok generation.

And Foster couldn’t be happier about it. This far into his career, he’s still willing to risk it all to remain genuine.

“Natural tendencies are what we tend to gravitate towards in life,” he says. “My concept of Unnatural Tendencies includes thinking outside the box and attempting things that we would normally shy away from. It involves taking risks and trying different things that could be glorious or disastrous.”

But then, it’s been that way for the Nanaimo-based rock/folk maverick since he burst onto the scene in the ’70s with his original band, Falcon, whose 1980 single “Los Angeles” won a talent contest on CKOC Radio Hamilton. Since then, Foster has worked with the likes of Daniel Lanois and Ray Materick (“Linda Put The Coffee On”) and has taught more than 20 years’ worth of students in his side gig as a professional music teacher, receiving two silver medals from the Royal Conservatory of Music in the process. But the biggest feather in his cap has been his stellar run as a solo artist, which encompasses 10 albums of music in a breathtaking diversity of styles—from the “Rockabilly Fever” of 2020’s Not Far Away to the seasonal side he explored on The Spirit of Christmas the very next year.

Now he takes another bold step into the great unknown with Unnatural Tendencies, which he co-produced with Rick Salt (The Irish Rovers, Kerplunks, Jack Connolly, Gerry Barnum, Phil Dwyer) at Nanaimo’s Mountainview Studio. It’s seeing release on Foster’s own Rescue Records label, which is part of the reason he felt the freedom to stretch out in multiple directions at once.

“This is my tenth album (which prompted the word ‘Tendencies’ in the title), and I’m making it fit for me,” he says. “It’s the way I like to hear music, in album form the way I believe my fans do. These are some of my best songs ever; I’m singing and playing guitar better than I ever have, and I brought in the best musicians I could find, rather than use synthesizers and samples.”

So even though the devil-may-care approach he took to composition this time might not have been devised expressly with the stage in mind, he and his band still have all the ammo they need to further their reputation for killer live work when they do take the new material on the road. Venues across Canada have witnessed the little miracle Glen is live, both on his own and sharing the bill with the likes of Lighthouse, Sammy Hagar, Dr. Hook, Jose Feliciano, Valdy, Jesse Winchester and Stan Rogers. With the new album done, look for them at a showroom, festival, park concert or pub near you. Anything else would be … well, unnatural.