Ruthie Foster transformed Eddie’s Attic into some sort of magical musical paradise for the sold-out audience last night, Friday night, March 23, 2012.
Foster has a phenomenal voice and stage presence. She also has an incredible band, with Tanya Richardson playing five-string bass, Samantha Banks on drums (and spoons!), and the one male among the females, Scottie “Bones” Miller on keyboards. Together, they spread positive energy and a joyful vibe while Foster’s amazing voice soared through the intimate setting and touched each and every one in the 170-person capacity crowd in this intimate venue.
Foster drew from a wide variety of sources from her music. She explained that she grew up in Texas listening to country music, and then transmogrified Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire” into a soulful blues ballad I think Cash would have loved, and made every woman in the audience vibrate with pride with her musical rendition of Maya Angelou’s “Phenomenal Woman.” She talked about loving the blues and Odette and then did “If I Had a Hammer” in a heavy, bluesy version that was unlike any rendition I’ve ever heard before.
For Mississippi John Hurt’s “Richmond Women,” drummer Samantha Banks wowed the crowd completely with her performance on the spoons, which turned an already incredible number into something absolutely spectacular.
David Crosby’s “Long Time Gone” has never sounded better than it did last night, not even when Crosby, Stills and Nash performed it.
Foster’s own “Aim for the Heart,” which she helped write, was at first offered to Bonnie Raitt, and it has that sort of hard-hitting, soulful blues sound. I could imagine Raitt doing this song, but as much as I love Bonnie I cannot imagine her doing it better.
For me, the highest of highs of the evening was when Foster brought William Bell on stage to duet with her on his unforgettable hit, “You Don’t Miss Your Water.” Frankly, I thought my heart might just stop, I was so mesmerized. And Ruthie was just as star struck, which made the duet not only powerful but completely charming. She talked about how when she performed the song with Bell the first time she was so amazed just to be in the same space, breathing the same air with Bell that she forgot to start singing when the song began. And after this rendition, she just buried her face in his shoulder and held it there. It was a lovely moment.
But for every song, every story, every interaction with the crowd—and there were many—what came through clearly in this concert was the joy that Foster and every member of her band has in performing. It was so easy to see how she won the 2011 Koko Taylor Award for Traditional Blues Female Artist of the Year at the Blues Music Awards. The overwhelming feeling of the evening was love, and the second was joy, and you just can’t go wrong with a concert like that.
Many of the songs last night came from Foster’s new CD, Let It Burn, which you should go and grab as soon as you can. Aside from “Long Time Gone,” “Aim for the Heart,” “Ring of Fire” and “You Don’t Miss Your Water,” the concert also included “The Titanic,” in honor of the upcoming anniversary of the sinking in April 1912, and Los Lobos’ “This Time.”
The show ended with a rousing version of “Travelin’ Shoes” that included a marvelous jam between Tanya Richardson, Samantha Banks, and Scottie Miller that left me, for one, so drunk on the music that I wondered if I could make it down the stairs—and I had not consumed a single drop of alcohol.
Right now, Ruthie Foster and her Family Band can still play small clubs like Eddie’s Attic, but I foresee a day soon when she will not be able to play these intimate settings. Catch her anywhere you can, but especially if you can catch her in a setting like this. It’s an amazing, intimate feeling you will not forget.