Ruthie Foster to Celebrate CD Release at City Vineyard This Week
In the tightknit musical community of Austin, Texas, it's tough to get away with posturing. You either bring it, or you don't.
If you do, word gets around. Praises are sung. And one day, you find yourself duetting with Bonnie Raitt, or standing onstage with the Allman Brothers at New York's Beacon Theater and trading verses with Susan Tedeschi. You might even wind up getting nominated for a Best Blues Album Grammy - three times in a row. In addition to your six Female Artist of the Year/koko Taylor Blues Music Awards.
There's only one Austinite with that résumé: Ruthie Foster. And when she releases Joy Comes Back, her eighth Blue Corn Music album, on March 24, 2017, the Recording Academy might want to put its engraver on notice. Because every note on it confirms this truth: It's Ruthie's time.
Ruthie will celebrate the album tomorrow, March 21, at 8:30 p.m. at City Vineyard (Voices Along the Hudson, 155 Varick, NYC). Go to www.citywinery.com/newyork/ruthie-foster-at-city-vineyard-3-21.html for details.
When she recorded these songs, Foster wasn't merely singing about love and loss; she was splitting a household and custody of her 5-year-old daughter. Music was her therapy.
In the warm confines of Austin producer and former neighbor Daniel Barrett's studio, she found a comfort level she'd never before experienced while recording. It gave her the strength to pour the heartache of her family's fracture and the cautious hope of new love into 10 incredible tracks, nine of which are by a diverse array of writers ranging from Mississippi John Hurt, Sean Staples and Grace Pettis (daughter of renowned folk singer Pierce Pettis), to Chris Stapleton and Black Sabbath. Yes, Black Sabbath: Foster reimagines "War Pigs" as a jam session with Son House. She also covers The Four Tops' "Loving You Is Sweeter Than Ever," written by Ivy Jo Hunter and Stevie Wonder.
And she makes each one hers, aided by some special guests. Tedeschi's husband, Derek Trucks, drops slide guitar into the title tune; bassist Willie Weeks (Bowie, Clapton, George Harrison) plays on the Foster-penned "Open Sky"; and drumming legend Joe Vitale (Crosby, Stills & Nash; the Eagles) appears on several tracks. Grace Pettis adds guitar to "Working Woman" and vocals on "Good Sailor," Pettis' co-write with Haley Cole. Local hero Warren Hood ("Champ Hood's boy," as Foster calls him) lays fiddle and mandolin on Hurt's bluegrass-tinted "Richland Woman Blues." Barrett plays guitars, drums and percussion; other contributors include Brian Standefer, Eric Holden, Frank LoCrasto, Nicholas Ryland and Red Young, as well as the core members of Ruthie's touring band, Samantha Banks and Larry Fulcher.
At one point, Barrett described the album to Hood as "some blues, some folk, some soul, some rock, some gospel." Hood replied, "Sounds like Ruthie Foster music."
Exactly. And "Ruthie Foster music" is an adventurous trip, harboring in places where stylistic limitations don't exist and anything is worth trying. Which explains how she can turn even a song she was initially unsure about, "Loving You Is Sweeter Than Ever," into a gospel-pop tour-de-force that could make Aretha Franklin jealous. "Once in a while I get a song I just resist, but I go ahead and start feeling what it feels like to sing it," Foster explains. "That was one of those songs; it just felt good to sing."