Saturday, 30 August 2008

CD Review - Ruthie Foster

The Phenomenal Ruthie Foster
Blue Corn Music

By M.D. Spenser

Well, finally. Ruthie Foster has at last made a full-throated R&B record worthy of her prodigious talent.

Mining a mostly acoustic folk and country Blues vein, the Texas singer and guitarist had recorded worthy albums, notably 2002’s “Runaway Soul.”

But for years people have compared her to Aretha, so it shouldn’t have taken a genius to figure out she ought to be singing more soul, with maybe some gospel thrown in. But it did—producer Malcolm “Papa Mali” Welbourne, who told Foster he heard more in her than was coming across.

This is in some ways a break-up record: Foster recently ended a 10-year relationship. But it is an affirmation, too—of faith, the ability to feel, the solace of friendship and the miracle of being a woman.

The songs range from the wistful ‘Cuz I’m Here’ (“and you’re there/all alone”) to the high-octane soul of ‘Heal Yourself,’ one of five originals. Along the way, she covers Son House, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Lucinda Williams and Eric Bibb.

The songs grow on you, burrowing inside, refusing to be dislodged.

‘Phenomenal Woman’, with words by the author and poet Maya Angelou, is as lush an ode to the richness of womanhood as can be found. “Pretty women wonder/Where my secret lies”, the song asks, then answers: “It's in the reach of my arms/The span of my hips/The stride to my steps/The curl of my lips.”

It may have taken Foster a while to find her true voice. But thank goodness it’s happened.

Friday, 22 August 2008

OPINION: Never Buy From BestChoiceFurniture

By M.D. Spenser

The benefits of internet shopping are obvious. No need to drive from store to store searching for what you want. With a click, you can buy from a reputable company like Amazon, and within a day or two your stuff arrives at the door.

But there are risks.

What if the company boasts a professional website offering a range of goods at what seem to be reasonable prices – but won’t stand behind what it sells?

What if the company is, for example, And let’s say the product turns out to be defective. You’re likely to be SOL – stone outta luck.

Had you bought from a store with a physical location and regular opening hours, you could go there, demand to see the manager, and probably reach some accommodation. Your merchandise would be replaced or your money refunded.

Take my experience as a cautionary tale. I ordered a bunk bed from BestChoiceFurniture for about £100. The bed arrived in short order. Good news. Unfortunately, when my wife and I assembled it, we found that one part – necessary for stability – was defective.

I called BestChoiceFurniture. When I finally got through, I was told no problem. I could choose between having an entirely new bed delivered or just having the defective part replaced. The bed was 99 percent assembled, so I opted for just the part.

Over the next couple of months, I kept a log of the scores of calls I made to the BestChoice, and the false things BestChoiceFurniture told me in reply. I will spare you the details because that would run to thousands of words. A small sample will do.

I dealt with an ineffectual person named Lisa. The manager refused over the course of several weeks to get on the phone with me – and in the end never spoke to me at all. But Lisa, on behalf of the company, gave me certain delivery dates: I would receive the replacement part next Tuesday. Didn’t arrive? Oh sorry, it will come next week, either Wednesday or Thursday. Not yet? Good News. The part was put in the post today.

All false.

When I became more annoyed, Lisa told me it wasn’t BestChoice’s problem, but one for “the supplier” to fix. I pointed out that I had no deal with “the supplier”. I gave my £100 to BestChoiceFurniture. My arrangement was with them. They took my money; it was their responsibility to provide me with what I paid for – a product I could use.

To no avail. The problem was the supplier’s – and, what’s more, Lisa informed me she did not feel able to “harass” the supplier.

In the end, despite scores of phone calls, I was SOL. BestChoiceFurniture took my money and simply did not care.

None of which means, of course, that you should never by anything from the Web. But it does mean you might want to check out the companies you do business with, searching the Web for testimonials or complaints. And – just my opinion – never do business with