For many festival goers, the highlights usually involve seeing their favourite bands and artists performing outdoors, rain or shine. But for me, the best shows are the ones that you weren’t planning to see, where you are wandering the festival grounds, especially early in the day, and hear something that captures your attention. This was the case when Ruthie Foster performed at the RBC Ottawa Bluesfest in 2007.

Foster actually performed two shows at the festival. The first was a mid-afternoon affair on Saturday. Under a hot sunny day, a small gathering of festival goers, including my friend Trevor and me, gathered at the main stage to see Foster perform. By the end of her one-hour set, the crowd had grown to a couple of thousand, who were captivated by her blend of blues, gospel, classic R&B, and soul and her powerful, magnetic voice. Foster also performed the following day, but this time in the intimate Barney Danson Theatre, where 300+ fans packed the room to see her play a lively acoustic set.

No matter where she goes, she is winning fans. In 2011 when my wife and I had the fortune to attend the Byron Bay Bluesfest in Australia, we caught Foster’s early afternoon set, which was packed. At the autograph session afterwards, fans flocked to meet and speak with her, have their photo taken with the charismatic Texas native, and remark how they were impressed and in awe of her voice and talent.

While Foster’s star started to glow brightly in 2007, she actually commenced her musical career back in the 1990s when her debut album, Full Circle, was released in 1997. It wasn’t until the 2007 release of The Phenomenal Ruthie Foster when Foster started to receive the much-deserved praise and notoriety of her peers, critics and fans. In 2008, she was nominated by the Blues Music Award for Traditional Blues Female Artist of the Year. She would receive another nomination in the same category the following year with the release of The Truth According to Ruthie Foster. Foster’s last full-length album, Let It Burn, was made in 2012 and she followed that up with a short EP, Keep it Burning, the next year.

She hasn’t been back to the Ottawa area recently, but hopefully she’ll return soon. If you don’t live in the Ottawa region, you can still catch Foster live as she is playing a number of shows around North America over the next few months, including stops at the Kitchener Bluesfest and the Harvest Jazz & Blues Festival in Fredericton, New Brunswick. You can find tour information here. If you are unable to see her live, I highly recommend Ruthie Foster (Live at Antone’s).

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