Ruthie Foster: Runaway Soul

Texas troubadour immerses herself in blues and decides to stay there.

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It would be inaccurate to say Ruthie Foster hadn’t displayed a blues influence previously.

Her first two albums, Full Circle and Crossover, featured church-soaked vocals with soul to spare. But on this 2002 effort she more aggressively aligned herself with the folk-tinged blues that’s since brought her acclaim.

Foster favours substance over flash, writing earthy, tasteful tunes whose themes of spiritual soul-searching alternately reflect optimism (Woke Up This Morning), sorrow (Death Came A-Knocking) and transcendence (the title track). The increased bluesiness arrives via Lloyd Maines, whose lively production underpins Woke Up This Morning with Riley Osborn’s gospel organ, spices Ocean Of Tears with full-bodied harp by Gary Primich and layers Joy with powerful harmonies.

“This album’s for the strays from the church, those who still have spirit but don’t need religion to know who they are,” Foster said at the time. Now a three-time Grammy nominee and internationally beloved blues figure, Foster certainly knows who she is.