STYLE: Blues RATING OUR PRODUCT CODE: 50682-14816 LABEL: Proper PRPCD040 FORMAT: CD Album ITEMS: 1
Reviewed by Ian Hayter
Ruthie Foster is a rootsy blues/soul singer who, despite all the odds, has made an impact at the British folk festivals. The lady is a big fan of Maya Angelou (whose words appear on "Phenomenal Woman" which no doubt influenced the album's title) and Ruthie manages to write articulate lyrics that approach the truly poetic which, with the help of producer Malcolm "Papa Mali" Welbourne, she has wedded to memorable melodies and heart-stopping arrangements. Five of the 11 tracks on this album are her own, including the superb "Heal Yourself" and the closer "I Don't Know What To Do With My Heart". The other six tracks are songs by such luminaries as folk/blues man Eric Bibb ("A Friend Like You") and gospel pioneer Sister Rosetta Tharpe ("Up Above My Head I Hear Music In The Air"). The opening "'Cuz I'm Here" is by Greyhounds organist Anthony Farrell who adds his great talent to the band on this album, along with bassist Glenn Fukunaga (who has worked with Dixie Chicks and Terri Hendrix) and drummer George Sluppick of Mofro. There's a good dose of blues, with a strong folk feel, but Ms Foster also injects a great deal of soul (and even a bit of funk) into the mix. And her self-penned "Beaver Creek Blues" has a real swampy feel to it (complete with frog croaks and animal noises!). Listening to this album, showcasing her amazingly powerful voice and her emotional delivery, one becomes quickly aware that here is a singer who'd leave many of today's R&B divas for dead. Whoever encouraged Ruthie to use the adjective "phenomenal" in the title certainly knew what they were doing.
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