Many fine artists had their beginnings in gospel. Aretha Franklin, Sam Cooke, Al Greene, even Elvis and Jerry Lee. A surprising progression, maybe, from the pews to the dance halls, but don’t we all stray a little from the churches of our childhood?
Ruthie Foster has traveled so far while staying true to her sacred roots. And the road lies long before her.
Hailing from little Gause, Texas, a ways east of Austin, Foster grew up learning the value a good day’s work on the family farm and the tried-and-true values of a small community with a strong spiritual vein running right through it. You can see those roots in Ruthie and in her music, and you can hear the voices of the strong women that brought her up and showed her the way.
Foster is a singer, guitarist, songwriter, an all-around force of nature, often compared to such greats as Ella Fitzgerald, Bonnie Raitt and Franklin. Now living in Austin, she tours internationally and is always in demand to perform with Texas friends. She has numerous albums to date, including Full Soul, Runaway Soul, The Truth According to Ruthie Foster, Let It Burn, and the recent Promise of a Brand New Day. Gospel, blues, roots, soul, country, Ruthie does it all, and it’s all damn good.
She is also a special interpreter of the work of others. Check out her lilting take on Lucinda Williams‘ “Fruits of My Labor”, or the Band’s classic “It Makes No Difference”, or “The Ghetto” by The Staple Singers. Then there is the stunning “Ring of Fire”. Ruthie takes this classic somewhere else entirely, and Mr. Cash would be proud indeed.
Ruthie’s special style is a carefully crafted gumbo of gospel (she was a soloist in her local choir by age fourteen) and country blues, with a dash of regional conjunto (introduced to her at an early age via the border airwaves), and a strong shot of folk. Everywhere there is rhythm, the rhythm of the church, the rhythm of the backstreet dance hall, the rhythm of life.
Three things you should know about Ruthie Foster: (1) she was a member of the U.S. Navy’s pop/funk band Pride, (2) one of her favorite childhood memories is picking Mustang grapes for her grandmother, and (3) her list of achievements include Best Female Vocalist in 2007, 2008 and 2013 from the Austin Music Awards, a 2012 and 2009 Grammy nomination for Best Contemporary Blues Album, the 2010 Living Blues Music Award Critic’s Poll for Female Blues Artist of the Year, the 2013 Living Blue Music Award Critic’s Poll for Bluest Artist of the Year (female) and recent Blues Music Award wins for Best Contemporary and Best Traditional Blues Female Artist of the Year.