Release Date: Jan 31, 2012
Record label: Relativity Entertainment
Genre(s): R&B, Soul, Blues, Pop/Rock, Modern Electric Blues, Blues Gospel, Folk-Blues, Country Soul
When you call Grammy-winning producer John Chelew, the man behind John Hiatt’s career-resurrecting Bring The Family, you’ve got to want to be real. Thankfully, Ruthie Foster—also a Grammy nominee for the blues—knows no other way. Their collaboration brings a soul-expanding take on Foster’s plain dirt voice, which mixes her Texas folk/blues with gospel, Muscle Shoals-feeling soul, Memphis grooves and hints of New Orleans funk, California singer/songwriter aesthetics and the Mississippi’s humid rootsiness.
Ruthie Foster first sang in the church choir while growing up in rural Texas. While she became successful mixing folk, blues, rock and country together in that way that seems so natural in Lone Star performers, there was always a gospel element in the way she delivered her vocals. She openly emphasizes this aspect of her voice on her latest album, Let It Burn, by choosing appropriately churchy accompaniment that includes the Blind Boys of Alabama on four tracks and master Hammond B3 organist Ike Stubblefield, and selecting righteous material that includes everything from old time spirituals, such as “The Titanic” to the Stax standard “You Don’t Miss the Water” (duetting with the original hit maker, William Bell), to self-penned spirituals, such as “Lord Remember Me” to Adele’s elemental “Set Fire to the Rain”.
One of the gospel-blues scene's best-kept secrets for over a decade, Texan singer/songwriter Ruthie Foster finally achieved some long-overdue mainstream recognition when her 2009 sixth studio effort, The Truth According to Ruthie Foster, picked up a Grammy nomination. By putting down the guitar and concentrating entirely on her vocals for the first time in her career, her follow-up, Let It Burn, suggests she means business. It's a wise move, as her impassioned, soulful tones have always been her main selling point, and backed by an impressive array of musicians, including the Meters' rhythm section and legendary gospel act the Blind Boys of Alabama, they're allowed the freedom to showcase their versatility, whether it's channeling the velvety smoothness of Anita Baker on the atmospheric blues of John Martyn's "Don't Want to Know," matching the power of Aretha Franklin on the a cappella rendition of early 20th century folk standard "The Titanic," or echoing the spiritual leanings of Carleen Anderson on the harmony-driven opener "Welcome Home.
Long time Drivin’ N’ Cryin’ mainstay Kinney has crafted a productive if not particularly commercially successful solo career away from the veteran Southern hard rockers. Now ensconced in New York City, Kinney joined with Anton Fier and his loose knit Golden Palominos collective (Fier produced some D N C albums) for this typically rollicking, thinking man’s hour long set that is one of the highlights of his bulging catalog. Kinney never phones it in but he’s clearly inspired by Fier and his cohorts.
Given that the Blind Boys of Alabama grace the first notes of Let It Burn and the final ones of "The Titanic" in a set of mostly sanctified covers – the everlasting gospel group's contemporary stock-in-trade – consider this Ruthie Foster's Blind Boys of Alabama album. Coating four tracks sequenced as the LP's spine, the BBOA stamp Foster's tolling chain gang lament "Lord Remember Me" and the building intensity/density of Crosby, Stills & Nash's "Long Time Gone," two of Burn's brightest lights. Recorded in New Orleans at a supremely unhurried pace, the disc crosses over on Adele's "Set Fire to the Rain" and canny material choices such as Los Lobos ("This Time"), the Black Keys ("Everlasting Light"), and the Band ("It Makes No Difference").