Ruthie Foster has been a favourite of mine for a while now. As I wrote back in June, I first “discovered” Ruthie Foster back in 2007 when she performed at Ottawa Bluesfest. She performed two shows at the festival – a mid-summer’s day set that had the audience of some 2,000 people completely captivated and more showed up to find out who was this brilliant performer. The second was an intimate affair in the 300-person capacity Barney Danson Theatre, where her powerful voice filled the room.
I’ve also been fortunate to see her perform in Australia, where several thousand attendees to the 2011 edition of the world-class Byron Blues Festival couldn’t get enough of her. Her scheduled 30-minute autograph session lasted nearly 90 minutes, as she took the time to meet with everyone who wanted an autograph, a photograph, or just wanted to chat. It was at this point, between 2007 and 2012, where Foster’s star started to shine more brightly. What people forget is that Foster has been performing since 1997, and for ten years she played in cafes and small clubs and living in a van like most musicians. And on one occasion, Foster recorded a session and released it as a live album – Ruthie Foster: Live at Antone’s, which includes the great “Runaway Soul” from her 2002 album of the same name. This song exemplifies the blues-gospel-soul music that Foster has mastered over time.
And now on her latest album, Promise of a Brand New Day, which was released two weeks ago on Blue Corn Music, Foster has put together arguably her most complete album – one that touches on each of these genres while still showcasing her tremendous voice. And like with every thing she sings, every song is sung from the heart and with optimism and hope even among the most gloomiest songs.
Take “Brand New Day”, for instance, which is a heavy blues number that still speaks about the possibilities of tomorrow despite the struggles of yesterday and today. Or “Second Coming” another heavy blues number that has an angry undertone as Foster signs about the exploits of John Brown and Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., stating that they bodies may have been taken away but their message and spirit lives on. And what’s so interesting about this brief song is that Foster chose two men from different races and different times as illustrations that freedom and unity are shared by all. “The Ghetto”, meanwhile, is a beautiful, gospel tune that speaks about community, resilience, and hope. As Foster sings during the chorus, “there will be no more ghetto for me”, which is a powerful message about overcoming tremendous odds.
Most of the album, however, doesn’t have the heavy feel as these tracks. The first single from the album, which is also its opener, “Singing the Blues”, is an upbeat, mid-tempo track, and much of the album follows this positive, joyful vibe, including “My Kinda Lover” and “It Might Not Be Right”, which both have that cool, smooth Bonnie Raitt feel. In other words, songs that might have you grabbing your lover and slowly dancing while Foster sings about love and its possibilities.
Foster will commence an extended tour in September, beginning September 5 at the Paramount Theater in Austin, Texas. This is a great opportunity to see a tremendous singer-songwriter perform live, and it’ll likely be a show you won’t forget. You can find tour dates here.
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