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Music Review: Ruthie Foster – Let It Burn

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Ruthie Foster has traveled an odd journey on her way to becoming one of the better contemporary blues artists working today. She began that journey as a part of a family of gospel singers, which led her to the church choir. A tour of duty with the U.S. Navy Band soon followed.

After years of touring and recording she has developed into an accomplished performer and recording artist. She has an astounding vocal range which is a cross between the smoothness of Ella Fitzgerald and the power of Aretha Franklin. While she can primarily be considered a blues singer, she also moves over into a jazz and soul style upon occasion.

She has begun to establish a national reputation. Her 2009 album, The Truth According To Ruthie Foster, was nominated for a Grammy Award. At The 2010 Blues Music Awards she won the award for Best Contemporary Blues Album. During late January, 2012, she will release her 7th album.

Let It Burn is an eclectic mix of material, which Foster transforms into an imaginative blues album. She surrounds herself with some of New Orleans best musicians. Keyboardist Ike Stubblefield, bassist George Porter Jr, drummer Russell Batiste, guitarist Dave Easley, and sax player James Rivers form a tight and talented band for her vocal prowess.

She performs four of the tracks with the legendary gospel group, The Blind Boys Of Alabama. “Welcome Home” and “Lord Remember Me” returns her to her gospel roots. She wrote both songs and her bluesy voice intertwines with the pure gospel backing of The Blind Boys. Likewise the traditional, “The Titanic,” is transformed into a gospel/blues fusion piece. The most interesting of the four was a re-interpretation of David Crosby’s “Long Time Gone,” which emerges as a creative blues song.

There are a number of other interesting cover songs. The old folk tune, “If I Had A Hammer,” is given a jazzy vocal treatment. The Band’s “It Makes No Difference” and the Johnny Cash classic “Ring Of Fire,” are now vehicles for her to sing the blues. From the Black Keys “Everlasting Light” to Los Lobos “This Time” to her soulful duet with William Bell on “You Don’t Miss Your Water,” it is an album filled with delights.

Let It Burn is another building block in the career of Ruthie Foster. It is a fine album of contemporary American blues by one of the best vocalists in the business.

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