Ruthie Foster: Joy Comes Back

James Nadal By

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To prove the point that one can go home again, Ruthie Foster returned to the small church in Caldwell, Texas, where she began, singing hymns in the choir, in search of inspiration for Joy Comes Back. For Foster, singing gospel and soul is a birthright, blues and country her second nature; the vast Americana musical landscape being her backyard.

After years on the road, Foster chose to record at neighbor and producer Daniel Barrett's studio in Austin, giving the album a comfortable, laid back feeling. Totally in her comfort zone, and with the uncanny ability to sing anything, Foster opens with the country hit "What Are You Listening To ?" and quickly takes the song into another orbit. There are high praises for the "Working Woman," written by Grace Pettis, a rocking empowerment dedicated to the female workforce; Pettis also penned "Good Sailor," which utilizes sailing imagery as analogies for life experiences.

The title track features Derek Trucks on slide guitar, and is presented as a testifying hymn, with Foster reaching deep into her gospel heritage. "Open Sky," the only original included, is a soft, swaying breeze highlighting her romantic side, which continues on the Four Tops cover, "Loving You Is Sweeter Than Ever." In stark contrast, "War Pigs," the classic metal protest anthem by Black Sabbath, is converted into a hard power blues, complemented by a reverb driven harmonica, courtesy of Simon Wallace.

Down home country blues is Foster territory, and Mississippi John Hurt's "Richland Woman Blues," has her playing dobro, accompanied by superb fiddle playing and mandolin picking from Warren Hood, for a toe tapping, good time number. She switches back into a more solemn role on "Abraham," the Shawnee Kilgore opus on Lincoln, the president, which casts a light on the political turmoil currently embroiling the nation. Foster's upbringing in church singing gave her a natural sense of when and how to convey serious lyrics, and she displays this remarkably well on the ballad "Forgiven." As she recovers from a dissolved relationship, she has chosen the high ground, choosing to forgive rather than hold bitterness and anger, yet it's time to move on.

With her seamless navigation between soul, blues, country, gospel and rock, Ruthie Foster has offered another testament to what makes her a unique voice in American music. As is the case with the best in this business, she did it before it was a business, when singing and playing music was her life, nurtured by a loving family, and a harmonious church environment. She is a natural, and is the consummate professional, an evolutionary artist at the crest of her craft, with the sound of truth and courage in her voice.

Track Listing: What Are You Listening To?; Working Woman; Joy Comes Back; Open Sky; Good Sailor; War Pigs; Loving You Is Sweeter Than Ever; Richland Woman Blues; Abraham; Forgiven.

Personnel: Ruthie Foster: lead vocals, acoustic guitar; Daniel Barrett: guitar, bass, percussion, keys; Joe Vitale: drums (1, 4, 10); Larry Fulcher: bass (1, 6); Frank LoCrasto: keys (1, 4, 5, 7, 10); Dennis Bee: drums (2, 5, 6, 7, 9); Grace Pettis: acoustic guitar (2, 5) backing vocals (5); Sheree Smith: backing vocals (2, 7); Mark Epstein: upright bass ( 3, 8) Willie Weeks: bass (4); Derek Trucks: slide guitar (3); Eric Holden: bass (10); Simon Wallace: harmonica (6); Nicholas Ryland : keys (9), backing vocals (7); Samantha Banks: spoons (8); Kim Deschamps: pedal steel (10); Brian Standefer: cello (10); Warren Hood: fiddle, mandolin (8).

Title: Joy Comes Back | Year Released: 2017 | Record Label: Blue Corn Records

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