If you're looking forward to the Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge’s second Sunday in the Park fall concert this weekend, you're not alone.
So is Polly Pry.
The local but widely traveled country-folk-pop band hasn't stepped on stage in front of an audience in more than six months.
“I can’t wait to see our musician friends and have them sit in with us,” said Polly Pry lead singer and ukulele player Kristen Foster.
“I can’t wait to be with people,” guitarist and backup vocalist Anna Byars said. “My favorite bandmate is the audience.”
Following the coronavirus pandemic restrictions that stopped performing arts events, Foster and Byars recently reunited in a duo format for one of the Manship Theatre’s “Manship Musical Moments.”
They’re returning to full Polly Pry strength for Sunday in the Park, joined by bassist David Hinson and drummer Chad Townsend.
In addition to the band’s return to performing, Polly Pry’s second album, “Hola, Perfecto,” is 80% complete.
“We’re tracking down those constantly moving loose ends,” Byars said of the album’s progress. “But it sounds fantastic.”
“It’s a way better representation of who we are,” Foster said, referring to “Two Warm Minutes,” the debut album that was recorded just two years into Polly Pry’s now 14-year run.
In 2008, Polly Pry set down “Two Warm Minutes” in Nashville, Tennessee, with Foster’s late father in the producer’s chair. A member of the Country Music Hall of Fame, Fred Foster produced classic recordings for Roy Orbison; founded Orbison’s label, Monument Records; helped launch the careers of Dolly Parton, Tony Joe White and Kris Kristofferson; and co-wrote the Kristofferson classic “Me and Bobby McGee,” made famous by Janis Joplin. Interviews with her father also play prominently in Ken Burns’ recent documentary series, “Country Music.”
Musicians for the 2008 sessions in Nashville included the band’s late bassist, Justin Hilbun, and veteran studio musicians Lloyd Green, steel guitar, and Charlie McCoy, harmonica.
Foster grew up in Nashville with two parents in show business. Her mother, Lisa Foster, was a singer and co-host of Nashville Network series including “Opryland On Stage” and “Charlie Daniels Talent Roundup.”
Despite her musical parentage, Foster didn’t play the ukulele and write songs until her second year in LSU’s creative writing graduate program. Later, during a visit to Nashville, Foster asked her father to record his then fledgling songwriter daughter.
“He said, ‘Play four songs for me,’ ” she remembered. “He always said, ‘Anyone can goof up and write one good song. Two (songs), OK, it might be something special. Three, OK, you’ve got a good three songs — but do you have a fourth? If all four are solid, then we can make an album.’ ”
“Kristen quickly had way more songs than that,” Byars recalled. “It wasn’t any catchup there. It’s her legacy. And she has such a clever way of twisting her way through a thought. She’s infuriatingly clever.”
Foster’s history of writing poetry made her a natural writer of lyrics. She earned her bachelor’s degree in poetry from the University of North Carolina Wilmington and master’s degree in nonfiction from LSU.
When Foster and Byars met at a party in 2006, Byars instantly recognized her future bandmate’s talent.
“Kristen’s song, ‘The Atlantic Ocean,’ was so haunting,” Byars said. “It just stopped me where I was.”
Foster is the group’s primary songwriter, but Byars adds her knowledge of harmony as well as seeds for the songs that Foster grows to fruition.
“Anna can harmonize with a squeaking door,” Foster said. “She’ll take the bridge into a minor key, and not just stay on the same three chords. It’s like when you wish a picture was just a little clearer. She sharpens the edges.”
“Kristen works way harder at songwriting, but I get to have the glory moments,” Byars said. “So, I wrote the fun first line, but Kristen wrote four verses that are genius."
Sunday in the Park with Polly Pry
Shaw Center for the Arts Plaza, 100 Lafayette St.