Joy Comes Back By Ruthie Foster

October 19, 2017

Ruthie Foster’s voice and ability to interpret songs is a force of nature. Her albums tend to key off of where she is in her life’s journey and the type of material she chooses to cover.

Her new album, Joy Comes Back, was recorded in the midst of a relationship break-up. The material she chooses to explore range from the blues of the Mississippi Delta to the funk of the Staples to an odd but wonderful cover of an old Black Sabbath classic. It all adds up to an emotional album of loss, therapy, recovery, and ultimately joy.

Her sound is more elemental than in the past, which puts the emphasis on her voice. There is a high-tension gospel cover of the old Four Tops ditty “Loving You Is Sweeter Than Ever.” She is at heart a blues singer and she takes Mississippi John Hurt’s “Richland Woman Blues” out for a ride. She explores Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs” as a blues jam. “Forgiven” is a ballad that just lets her voice soar.

Ruthie Foster has received numerous Blues Awards nominations and travelled with the likes of The Allman Brothers, Bonnie Raitt, and Susan Tedeschi. Hopefully Joy Comes Back will garner her some well-deserved mainstream acclaim.

Promise Of A Brand New Day By Ruthie Foster

September 28, 2014


There has always been a close connection between the gospel music of the church and the blues of the Southern Delta. Ruthie Foster fuses those two styles with her brand of passionate and energetic vocals.

Her two previous albums, The Truth According To Ruthie Foster and Let It Burn were both nominated for Grammy Awards in the Best Blues Album Category. Her new album, Promise of A Brand New Day, will be released August 19th.

Her music can best me compared to that of a modernized Staple Singers but with a little more straight-forward power in the vocals. Whether cover songs or one of her seven originals, they carry strong and relevant messages that she conveys with the strength of her voice.

She returns to her roots with a cover of the Staple Singers “The Ghetto.” The song begins as a sultry electric guitar blues ballad and builds with an increasing intensity. “Second Coming” is an Odetta type civil-rights protest song. A simple melody and acoustic guitar allow her voice to soar.

Her own composition “Singing The Blues,” which is the albums lead track, is a soulful trip though the old world of rhythm and blues. Simple is many times best as her a cappella version of “Brand New Day” demonstrates. “It Might Not Be Right,” a tune she wrote with William Bell, is her type of message song as it deals with the issue of gay marriage.

She has surrounded herself with a capable band consisting of bassist/producer Meshell Ndegeocello, guitarist Chris Bruce, drummer Ivan Edwards, and keyboardist Jebin Bruni. Also on hand are guest vocalist Toshi Reagon and guitarist Doyle Bramhall II.

Ruthie Foster has continued her tradition of releasing powerful and relevant gospel and blues albums. Promise Of A Brand New Day is music is from the heart, the pulpit, and the soul. It is music for today that draws on the traditions of the past.


Let It Burn by Ruthie Foster

January 3, 2012

Ruthie Foster has traveled an odd journey on her way to becoming one of the better contemporary blues artists working today. She began that journey as a part of a family of gospel singers, which led her to the church choir. A tour of duty with the U.S. Navy Band soon followed.

After years of touring and recording she has developed into an accomplished performer and recording artist. She has an astounding vocal range which is a cross between the smoothness of Ella Fitzgerald and the power of Aretha Franklin. While she can primarily be considered a blues singer, she also moves over into a jazz and soul style upon occasion.

She has begun to establish a national reputation. Her 2009 album, The Truth According To Ruthie Foster, was nominated for a Grammy Award. At The 2010 Blues Music Awards she won the award for Best Contemporary Blues Album. During late January, 2012, she will release her 7th album.

Let It Burn is an eclectic mix of material, which Foster transforms into an imaginative blues album. She surrounds herself with some of New Orleans best musicians. Keyboardist Ike Stubblefield, bassist George Porter Jr, drummer Russell Batiste, guitarist Dave Easley, and sax player James Rivers form a tight and talented band for her vocal prowess.

She performs four of the tracks with the legendary gospel group, The Blind Boys Of Alabama. “Welcome Home” and “Lord Remember Me” returns her to her gospel roots. She wrote both songs and her bluesy voice intertwines with the pure gospel backing of The Blind Boys. Likewise the traditional, “The Titanic,” is transformed into a gospel/blues fusion piece. The most interesting of the four was a re-interpretation of David Crosby’s “Long Time Gone,” which emerges as a creative blues song.

There are a number of other interesting cover songs. The old folk tune, “If I Had A Hammer,” is given a jazzy vocal treatment. The Band’s “It Makes No Difference” and the Johnny Cash classic “Ring Of Fire,” are now vehicles for her to sing the blues. From the Black Keys “Everlasting Light” to Los Lobos “This Time” to her soulful duet with William Bell on “You Don’t Miss Your Water,” it is an album filled with delights.

Let It Burn is another building block in the career of Ruthie Foster. It is a fine album of contemporary American blues by one of the best vocalists in the business.

Article first published as Music Review: Ruthie Foster – Let It Burn on Blogcritics.