Thursday, March 9, 2017


I don't think Ruthie has had a mention in these pages before. She is part of a select coven of female guitar slingers of a distinctive bluesy feel that I adore. Oddly for this genre, and I mean in the "modern" day, so as to avoid upsetting the myriad fans of icons like Sister Rosetta Tharp, she is black. (A quiet pause as I quickly check I am allowed to say that.) But, yes, it is odd, with all the Bonnies and Susans that seem now to epitomise the style, even my old home-town girl prodigy, Joanne. I make this point on neither any grounds of race/ethnicity, nor of blue men (women) sing the whites authenticity, merely an observation.

With a textbook background in a gospel choir dynasty, she took the unusual career choice of a would-be musician and joined the U.S. Navy, honing her chops in forces recruitment band 'Pride'. On de-mob she headed for the big Apple, being wooed, I guess, as a latterday Tracy Chapman, before returning to her roots, both musically and geographically, Texas.

Her first album, 'Full Circle', was self-released, cutting sufficient headwind to be picked up by local label, the combination aptly/ironically titled Blue Corn, for whom she has continued to work, another 6 studio and 2 live sets appearing over the next few years. Awards were also piling up, a Best Contemporary Blues Album Grammy in 2009 being followed by a Best Blues (now not just contemporary) Album in 2012.  Accolades elsewhere are aplenty, continuing right up to the present, earning her a second  Koko Taylor Award for Best Traditional Female Blue artist, in 2016. So, from contemporary to traditional in just 7 years!

Stylistically I think she reminds me most of Robert Cray, although this may more be more how, like him, she has engineered a wonderful earthy soul, R'n'B meets gospel, into the sometime rigidity of the blues. I guess these were always assumptions and understatements within the idiom, the various all arising from the same source(s), but reintroduced and reiterated so as to remind that the child is ever the father to the man. (Have I lost you?)

Recent years seem to see her pushed more as a vocalist than a guitarist. Maybe not as stellar on the instrument, maybe, as her above-mentioned peers, she is no slouch, and I for one prefer the idea and image of her, plugged in and playing. To my eyes there is little less pleasure than the sight of a woman toting an electric, slung low, but that may be too much information.

So have you heard of her? If not, I hope this taster gives you appetite and that, in the middle (SWIDT!) of all these posts you can find space for her Love in the Middle. The song itself comes from 2009's 'The Truth According to Ruthie Foster'.

Buy it!

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