ruthiefosterWritten by James Killen

Ruthie Foster, my goodness what a Texas treasure! I still remember the first time that I got a glimpse of her at an outdoor festival in Houston. I was amazed at her diversity of influence, her versatility in style and her ability to excel at whatever genre of music she chose to tackle. I was instantly dragged into her list of fans. Her gospel style vocals lend themselves to the blues, folk and soul styles. She has a new disc coming out in March (although I’ll bet that there are a few advance copies available at her live shows between now and then) and it continues to expand the realms of music that this young lady reaches into.

Ruthie has reached out to Porterdavis guitarist, Daniel Barrett for production influence. A sideline to this disc review, Porterdavis has a project due out soon and percussionist, Mike Meadows, was an active participant in one of the recent CD’s that I have reviewed, Curtis McMurtry’s “Hornet’s Nest”. Additionally, Porter Davis harmonica player, Simon Wallace, was featured on one of the tracks from Ruthie’s “Joy Comes Back”. We might be seeing a resurgence of Porterdavis influence on the Austin music scene, and not necessarily an unwelcome one.

Ruthie kicks her disc off with Chris Stapleton’s “What are you listening to?” What a perfect introduction to a music production. The question takes the listener instantly from a passive position of allowing the music to exist in the background to a focus on what is being communicated through the songs. With purpose, this song is followed by the assertive women’s anthem, “Working Woman”.

Ruthie gets back to her gospel roots on the bluesy gospel title tune, “Joy Comes Back”, featuring Derek Trucks on slide guitar and an effective Red Young on piano and organ. She flows from the gospel easily into the romantic pop/soul Foster song “Open Sky”, a great composition properly produced with keyboard orchestration and subtle percussion accents.

“Good Sailor” is the second Grace Pettis tune on this disc (after “Working Woman”) and puts forward the message of faith and persistence with the line “Smooth seas never made a good sailor”. Ruthie’s choice of including the Black Sabbath standard “War Pigs” is even more significant in that she is a navy veteran. The production on this disc is most definitely Ozzy meets Porterdavis as Simon Wallace provides a killer harmonica solo.

In support of my contention that Ruthie Foster is one of the most diverse performers playing today, she does an excellent version of Stevie Wonder’s “Loving You Is Sweeter than Ever” with keyboard help from Frank Locresto. Warren Hood jumps in with apparent influence on the Mississippi John Hurt tune, “Richland Woman Blues” playing fiddle and mandolin while Ruthie mans the dobro.

“Abraham” is a vague reference to Abraham Lincoln and his common man’s philosophy of “when I do good, I feel good and when I do bad I feel bad. That’s my religion.” One of the most powerful statements a person can make to another person is “You are forgiven” and the Deb Talan composition, “Forgiven” says this more clearly than any other song that I’ve heard, accented by Kim Deschamps’ pedal steel guitar.

All in all, this production is an excellent addition to Ruthie Foster’s artistic portfolio. I am looking forward to catching one of her upcoming live performances, either at Tomball’s Main Street Crossing or the Conroe Americana festival in May. If you have not availed yourself of this lady’s talent, you have done yourself a disservice.