Ruthie Foster lays it down, you’d be well advised to listen. Ruthie Foster repeatedly testifies to her core message - that through all of the ups and downs of living, you must stay true to yourself. The pain as well as the joy of love, the strength it takes to weather life’s challenges, the hope that grows from seeds of faith and wisdom. And the music brings it to life. Truth be told, Ruthie Foster could sing the phone book, jam on a laundry list and send everyone home happy. But the combination on The Truth According to Ruthie Foster of uplifting lyric and electrifying vocals, backed by a band of world-class players bristling with soul, proves impossible to resist.
Ruthie Foster's astonishing voice has taken her on an amazing ride. She came from humble church choir beginnings in rural Texas, followed by a tour of duty with the U.S. Navy Band, and ended up in New York City with a major-label development deal that went sour. After she moved back to Texas to care for her ailing mother, Ruthie Foster took a break from singing professionally for a couple of years. When she resumed her music career in Austin, she became a regular nominee at the Austin Music Awards, winning Best Folk Artist in 2004-05 and Best Female Vocalist in 2007-08. Broadening her sound by blending blues and soul aspects into her folk roots, Ruthie Foster added a Grammy nomination to her list of achievements (Best Contemporary Blues Album for her last studio release, 2009's The Truth According to Ruthie Foster). And, in a nod to her astounding range, she then won seemingly contradictory Blues Music Association awards for both Best Traditional and Best Contemporary Female Blues Artist in back-to-back years.
Fans who have followed her trajectory from her self-released debut through the aptly-titled The Phenomenal Ruthie Foster in 2007 discovered something different 2009's The Truth According to Ruthie Foster - namely, the summing-up of the various influences in this artist’s growth.
The music of The Truth According to Ruthie Foster is in fact the soundtrack of a young but remarkable life. From Ruthie Foster's beginnings in the Brazos Valley of Central Texas, she was launched by a strong mother and a large supportive family down a path whose pitfalls Ruthie learned to avoid and whose destination she charted on her own, with talent, faith and determination lighting her way.
On her previous albums and gigs that have taken Ruthie Foster from choir lofts to folk bistros and onto stages in Europe and Australia, Foster has raised the multiple flags of American music. There’s Southern blues in her groove, rock in her rhythm, a blend of gospel redemption, country poetry and jazz elegance in her singing. But not until The Truth According to Ruthie Foster did all the pieces fit into a picture this powerful.
The heat of soul music burns at the core of Ruthie Foster's music .
With a sound that ignores demographic lines and a charisma that can ignite any audience, Ruthie Foster is as an artist of all-encompassing appeal. This was only a matter of time. Even as a young girl, she was taking in a wide variety of music, whether through the hymns her mother taught her, the Beatles songs she analyzed in a book given by her guitar teacher, the 45s her truck-driving uncle would drop off during his visits, the old-school country she heard while watching various country variety shows with her grandfather, or the pop songs that crackled through the family radio.
“It didn’t matter to me what genre it was,” she remembers. “I just took it all in as great music - music that moved me.”
Even before her debut at age 14 as a soloist in the choir her uncle conducted, Ruthie Foster knew that her life would revolve around music. After moving to Waco to attend McClennan Community College, she mixed classes in music and audio engineering with visits to clubs at night, where the curriculum wasn’t based not on textbooks but on the power of performance. After a while Ruthie Foster was fronting a blues band in biker bars and other venues from Dallas to San Antonio.
Ruthie Foster immersed herself so deeply in music that eventually she decided she needed to step back and regain a little real-world perspective. “For years, all I did was eat, talk, dream and live about music. It got to the point that I wanted to find out if I could even hold a conversation about anything else,” she recalls, laughing. “But I was also curious about what was going on with the rest of the world. So I joined the Navy.”
Even there, music tracked her down. At a Christmas party for her helicopter squadron, Ruthie Foster couldn’t resist sitting in with the band to sing a few choruses of “Red House.” It was a short step from there to being signed up by Pride, a Navy ensemble that played the Top 40 and funk hits of the day at recruitment drives, mainly throughout the Southeastern states.
“There were seven of us, and I was the only woman in the band,” she recalls. “That’s where I learned how to work and hold my own on the road, and that was huge for me too.”
From there, Ruthie Foster’s path led to New York, where she absorbed more influences by performing at folk venues and collaborating with some of the city’s better songwriters. Supported at the time by a contract with Atlantic Records, she expanded her lyrical and musical range.
But it became apparent that Ruthie Foster wasn’t the mainstream power-ballad singer the label wanted her to be, and that her writing was veering away from commercial pop and drawing instead from the roots that had nourished her personally and artistically in her youth. Then, her duty as a daughter called Ruthie Foster to look after her mother during her final illness, and Foster took that as her cue to pack up and head back home to Texas.
Since that time, Ruthie Foster has progressed through six albums and a steady regimen of hard work, whether fronting a full band or working solo, writing at her digs in Austin or taking it to the people. Her shows have inspired a string of reviews in which the essential points are made repeatedly: Ruthie Foster merits comparison to the legends that inspired her, even as her unique contributions stake out a place of her own in the spotlight.
“Ruthie’s drawn comparisons to Ella and Aretha, but musically neither is really close,” observed the Philadelphia City Paper in one such rave. “What she does have in common with Fitzgerald and Franklin is the irresistible blaze. It’s impossible to look away, even close the eyes, for one second.”
Those who have followed Ruthie Foster's eclectic musical history know that she can burn down any stage with her combustible blend of soul, blues, rock, folk and gospel. And when Grammy Award-winning producer John Chelew suggested she record an album in New Orleans - with support handpicked from the Crescent City's overflowing pool of talent - it was an opportunity for Ruthie to infuse fresh spices into her already rich sonic gumbo. The result was Let It Burn -released in January 31, 2012, which smolders, sizzles and ignites with an intensity born from her vibrant voice and indelible presence.
Listen to Christian Musician Ruthie Foster
|Full Circle||1997||M.O.D. Records|
|Crossover||1999||Full Circle Productions|
|Runaway Soul||2000||Blue Corn Music|
|Stages||2004||Blue Corn Music|
|Phenomenal Ruthie Foster||2007||Blue Corn Music|
|The Truth According to Ruthie Foster||2009||Blue Corn Music|
|Ruthie Foster Live At Antones||2011||Blue Corn Music|
|Let It Burn||2012||Blue Corn Music|