The Truth According to Ruthie Foster

Title: The Truth According to Ruthie Foster

Artist:  Ruthie Foster

Label: Blue Corn Music

Catalog No.:  BCM 70901

Release date: February 3, 2009

Following up 2007’s The Phenomenal Ruthie Foster, Ruthie Foster once again showcases her roots-based blend of blues, soul, gospel, and folk rock.  Similar to fellow blues-rocker Danielia Cotton, Texas-born Foster cut her musical teeth singing gospel in church, learning rock songs, and listening to country radio with her grandfather.  Both reflect the fusion of their childhood experiences, though Foster swings to folk influences more than the rock and country that pervade Cotton’s music.

Drawing on those gospel roots, Foster certainly does step up to testify on The Truth; all eleven songs weave a sort of sermon out of hard times, hope, and Foster’s gritty, powerful voice.  The song selection covers equal parts covers and original tracks.  Foster’s originals slant towards the positive side of life, emphasizing love, perseverance, and gratitude.  “Stone Love” is a strong opening track, with a funky electric blues groove and anthemic lyrics such as “You see your worries, they’ll be alright / Just look around you, see that love is winning the fight.”  “Joy on the Other Side” has the acoustic sound of Delta blues or old-time string bands, with the celebratory verve of gospel.  Foster’s central message comes in the aptly-named “Truth,” in which she proclaims “Truth is right where you are.”

While Foster’s own songwriting voice is powerful, several of her covers stand out as the stronger tracks, allowing Foster’s voice to really shine.  Not coincidentally, these are the songs dealing with downward turns of fortune, whether material or spiritual, and Foster brings out the raw catharsis of blues in them.  “Nickel and a Nail” sounds like it emerged from a dark, smokey blues club on a summer night, with Foster’s voice taking on a growly and world-weary tone reminiscent of Janis Joplin.  “When It Don’t Come Easy” is simultaneously wistful, exhausted, hopeful, and comforting in its message of strength and love in hard times.

In spite of these stronger tracks, the album as a whole is somewhat uneven.  The light, reggae-styled “I Really Love You” feels out of place both in style and emotional intensity, even in the stylistically diverse selections on this album.  “(You Keep Me) Hangin’ On,” “Love in the Middle,” and “Thanks for the Joy,” while more stylistically consistent with the rest of the album, are also more forgettable.  Overall, one has to listen through The Truth According to Ruthie Foster quite a few times before any of the tracks start to stand out from each other.  While this kind of slow burn isn’t always a bad thing, Foster’s voice is phenomenal and it’s a shame that the album as a whole doesn’t showcase it to its fullest.

Following is a mini-documentary featuring Ruthie Foster at the Blue Rock studios in Wimberly, Texas:

Posted by Ann Shaffer