Ruthie Foster "The Truth According to Ruthie Foster" Album Review
"The Truth according to Ruthie Foster"
There’s a couple of old clichés, that no matter how tired they are, really seem to fit in here.
The first one - “things are bigger in the state of Texas.”
The second – “you are judged by the company that you keep.”
And in the case of Ruthie Foster, I’d say both those old clichés are right on the money.
After announcing her arrival on the scene with the aptly named The Phenomenal Ruthie Foster, the Texas-born sizzler is back with another hearty helping of music to feed the soul on The Truth According to Ruthie Foster.
While it may not be the best idea in the world to put the word “phenomenal” in front of what turned out to be your first major offering, Foster clearly struck the nail right on the head with that one.
With an assist from Papa Mali, the Austin-by-way-of-New Orleans guitarist and producer, The Phenomenal Ruthie Foster earned the down-to-earth singing sensation a host of new admirers, and she made the road her home, playing blues festivals all over the world.
And it doesn’t appear that she is ready to slow down any time soon.
Born and raised in Central Texas, Foster, like so many before her, was introduced to the magical possibilities of music through the church during her formative years.
Barely past her teen-aged years, Foster fronted a blues band that took the stage at any venue possible – from biker bars to town fairs – up and down the highway from Dallas to San Antonio. After a stint in the Navy and some time on the folk scene in New York, Foster returned to her native Texas and began spinning the gospel, soul, blues and funk that she loved so much into one satisfying fabric.
Ruthie Foster Live
A gritty soul singer that sounds a bit like Tracy Chapman filtered through Melissa Etheridge and steeped in a Lightin’ Hopkins brew, Foster can wail with any soul singer around. Deeply-moving lyrics from the heart, offered up with a ton of burning desire and passion – that’s Ruthie Foster.
Her potent punch brings to mind another soulful blues force also born in the state of Texas – Janis Joplin.
And her peers have quickly caught onto the magic of Ruthie Foster, because a who’s-who of elite musicians lined up at Memphis’ Ardent Studios to help bring The Truth According to Ruthie Foster to life.
Guitarist Robben Ford (Miles Davis, Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan), a legend in his own right, brought his unique six-string abilities to the sessions, along with Jim Dickinson (Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Aretha Franklin) on keyboards, Charles Hodges (Al Green, Ann Peebles) on organ, drummer Rock Deadrick (Ben Harper, Tracy Chapman) and bassist Larry Fulcher (Taj Mahal).
That is the very definition of star-studded.
Of course with all the soulful moxie that Foster packs, she could probably make a garage band sound like solid gold.
And there’s plenty of solid gold to be mined on The Truth According to Ruthie Foster.
Work on the disc was begun on Aug. 18, 2008, the very day that soul icon and Rock-N-Roll Hall of Famer Isaac Hayes was laid to rest in Memphis’ Memorial Park Cemetery.
And with the way the finished product turned out, it’s a safe bet that Black Moses would give a nod and a slight grin of approval.
The Truth According to Ruthie Foster starts out with a high note – “Stone Love” – and does not stop until 11 cuts of intoxicating soul has been spread across the landscape. Dickinson’s jaunty keyboard opening gives “Stone Love” a 1970s kind of feel, as Ford wah-wahs along on the irresistible tune.
“I Really Love You” is woven into a funky, reggae tapestry as Foster pleads for understanding – “if you could only see, if you could only tell, how much I really love you.” A cool muted trumpet takes the place of the traditional guitar solo spot, keeping the cut interesting throughout.
Foster wrote five of the tunes on the disc, proving she can do more than just sing.
One of those Foster-penned tracks, “Tears of Pain” is blues at their deepest. Ford gets a chance to stretch out a bit on this one and he shows why he is one of the tastiest guitar players around. You can almost feel the hurt deep inside Foster on “Tears of Pain.”
“Dues Paid in Full,” another song Foster wrote, leans to the funky side of things and bounces along with some Stax-inspired guitar and keyboards, punched up a notch with sharp blasts of horns.
As convincingly as she belts out these tunes, one has no doubt that Ruthie Foster is telling the truth all the way. Truth you can feel and hear. And that’s powerful stuff.