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.