Ruthie Foster
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Ruthie Foster


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The best kept secret in music


"Richard Skanse"

"Like the old spoonful-of-sugar-helps-the-medicine-go-down trick, Ruthie Foster's voice is so full of hallelujah, you sometimes have to listen to her songs two or three times before you realize she's singing the blues. 'I believe my soul's found a happy home,' she declares on the title track to her third album, quickly following it with the kicker, 'and left me waiting here to suffer on my own.' That's Runaway Soul in a nutshell: not so much a happy union of gospel and blues as a riveting toug-of-war between the two, with Foster's powerhouse voice caught in the middle as the prize. Self-penned tunes prove that Foster, a Gause native who's been working the folk circuit for more than a decade, can hold her own as a songwriter, but it's as a singer that she truly dazzles..."
- Texas Music Magazine

"Greg Barr"

"If music that sounds as if it were naturally fermented from the bayous, cricks and back porches of rural America is what you seek, then look no further than Ruthie Foster's Runaway Soul. Save a spot for this disc by the Bryan-College Station resident on the year-end list of stellar local recordings. As the opening line of the title track suggests, Foster's soul has found a happy home, and the listener is invited to come on over and try out Grampa's wooden rocker. Foster is equally comfortable singing gutsy gospel, folk or don't mess-with-Mama R&B." - Houston Press

"Mike Regenstreif"

"Whether singing blues or gospel, Ruthie Foster is a singer with a powerful, soul-stirring delivery that is easy to give yourself over to." - Montreal Gazzette

"Ruthie Foster opens Bo Diddley show"

Foster, a Texas native, got things started at 7:35 p.m. She stood on stage with only a Taylor acoustic guitar and microphone stand to keep her company.

Still, Foster’s blend of gospel, traditional blues and soul dripped from her being like cold molasses on tree bark — smooth and sweet with a hint of attitude. It didn’t take long for the dreadlocked crooner to have the crowd clapping along in rhythm and singing along.

Noteworthy moment in her 30-minute set: “Death Came A-Knockin’ (Travelin’ Shoes).” The minor-key rhythm and throaty vocal delivery easily evoked goose-flesh. The staccato beat to the track and familiar call-and-response delivery created a vivid illusion of Death walking in step with the narrator, as she spun her tale of woe.

Trevis R. Badeaux - The Daily Advertiser, Lafayette, Louisiana

"An Instrument All Its Own"

Drawing comparisons to Aretha Franklin and Ella Fitzgerald, Foster’s voice is an instrument all its own. She dives from a pained, heartbroken-blues howl to the most beautiful, deep-baritone, then soaring to unbelievable heights of emotion . . . It’s wonderful just knowing that a voice this amazing exists.
-Rob Palladino, Boheme Verite
- Boheme Verite

"Big Surprise"

The evening's biggest surprise was opener Ruthie Foster, a blues-gospel singer whose soaring range was everything Diddley's rail-narrow repertoire was not.

The diminutive singer, accompanying herself on acoustic guitar, ran through a half-hour litany of songs, including Big Maybelle Smith's "Oceans of Tears," which raised Overture Hall's roof a few inches off its joists.

"You don't need a microphone because they can hear you all the way to heaven," one adoring fan told her after the show.

Amen to that, sister.

Published: October 19, 2006 - Capital Times, Madison WI

""Phenomenal Woman""

Needless to say, if artists anoint themselves "phenomenal" in their album's title, they'd best be prepared to back it up with some pretty stunning music. Fortunately, Ruthie Foster comes equipped to show and prove with this solid collection of acoustic originals and well-chosen cover songs marinated in soul, folk, blues, and gospel. She offers a devastating a cappella rendition of the Son House classic "People Grinnin' in Your Face," then switches things up with the great Sister Rosetta Tharpe's "Up Above My Head (I Hear Music in the Air)," refashioning the gospel staple as an after-midnight blues song. Equally commanding is "Phenomenal Woman," which sets to music one of Maya Angelou's most beloved poems. Remarkably, Foster's plaintive delivery adds even greater poignancy and truth to this searing declaration of female empowerment. Unlike most contemporary R&B singers, this Texas singer-songwriter doesn't rely on studio wizardry and slick production for impact. Foster is a natural-born singer with a voice that is potent, unfussy, and, at times, deeply moving. -Renee Graham
- Boston Globe, February 6, 2007

"Ruthie Foster brings spirit, soul to Glass Cactus"

By THOR CHRISTENSEN / Pop Music Critic

Last week, Austin singer Ruthie Foster released her first album since splitting with her longtime singing partner Cyd Cassone – the brash but accurately titled The Phenomenal Ruthie Foster. And if there were any lingering doubts about how she'd fare on her own, she erased them once and for all at the Glass Cactus in the Gaylord Texan Resort.

When you've got a voice as gritty and brassy as Ms. Foster's, who needs harmony?

Ms. Foster grew up singing gospel in tiny Gause, Texas, and she breathed pure Pentecostal fire for much of Wednesday night's show. During the dizzying finale of "Travelin' Shoes," she was like Janis Joplin's subtler kid sister – wailing and moaning, but never resorting to histrionics.

She was just as effective turning it down a few notches. On her new heartbreak ballad "Harder Than the Fall," she smoldered like Otis Redding and emerged invigorated. "Some people call 'em breakup songs, but I call 'em breakthrough songs," she said.

But it barely mattered what she sang. She often gets pegged as a folk singer, but her deep, soulful voice fit as snugly on a reggae tune like "Real Love" as it did on the New Orleans standard "Iko Iko" or Brownie McGhee's "Walk On." On "Phenomenal Woman," she even turned a Maya Angelou poem into stirring gospel-blues.

She got expert backing from a four-man band anchored by bassist Glenn Fukunaga and Dallas guitar ace Pat Boyack. Loose when it needed to be – but airtight everywhere else – the quartet funked up Ms. Foster's songs with Meters-like precision.

The band also seemed to egg her on. Back when she performed as a duo with Ms. Cassone, her shows were fairly mellow. But Wednesday night, she was all revved up, pogo dancing through "Real Love" and spreading her arms in "Phenomenal Woman" as if she were about to leap off the stage.

She never did – but she didn't need to. Her voice soared high enough to satisfy everyone.
- Dallas Morning News Feb. 15, 2007

"Phenomenal Roots"

It takes real cojones to call your new album The Phenomenal Ruthie Foster, but this Texas singer-songwriter has more than enough in her musical arsenal to live up to this recording's title. Drawing from blues, gospel, and folk roots, Ruthie Foster combines a soulful singing style with equally formidable chops on guitar and electric piano that allow her to go from Son House field hollers and Sister Rosetta Tharpe nuggets to turning Maya Angelou's "Phenomenal Woman" into a late-'60s Aretha Franklin outtake. Further cementing this organic and unforced immersion into American roots music are originals that are as moving as Foster's cover of Lucinda Williams' "Fruits of My Labor" and just as tailor-made for the intimate confines of Biscuit & Blues' all-new Down Beat Lounge. Friday and Saturday, March 2 and 3. 11:30 p.m., free. (Dave Gil de Rubio – East Bay Express)
- East Bay Express

"Los Angeles Times Preview"

Times rating: Critic’s Choice

Foster, who's been wowing folkies at festivals and in coffee houses for a few years, is one of those talents who makes new fans say, "Where have you been all my life?" Her blend of gospel, blues and folk isn't easily marketable -- maybe that's why she's still playing out-of-the-way spots instead of Clive Davis' parties. Her new CD -- amazingly, her fifth -- gutsily named "The Phenomenal Ruthie Foster," will convert those hungry for some real, hot soul. (Ann Powers March 1, 2007)

Wednesday, March 7: 8 p.m.
The Mint
6010 Pico Blvd., L.A.
- Los Angeles Times


Stages (a Live CD)
Runaway Soul
Full Circle


Feeling a bit camera shy


Ruthie’s passionate songs and scintillating live performances attract both the young and old for an uplifting experience of dancing, listening, laughing and even some crying; especially when Ruthie rounds out the joyous occasion with her versions of show-stopping gospel standards.

Ruthie’s performance highlights include PBS syndicated Austin City Limits, which has aired repeatedly; a tour of UK theaters; a tour of US theaters with Bo Diddley; The Strawberry Music Festival in California, the Vancouver Folk Festival, the Willie Nelson Picnic, the Winnipeg Folk Festival, Folks Fest in Lyons, Colorado, Bass Concert Hall, the Waterfront Blues Festival in Oregon, the Tonder Festival in Denmark, the Philadelphia Folk Festival, the Austin City Limits Festival, and many others too numerous to mention.

Neither Ruthie nor the Blue Corn Music label and their distributor were prepared for the initial and sustaining demand for “Runaway Soul” since its release. CDs were flying off the shelves and in particular the stage. While on tour they sell an average of 100 CDs a night. “We spent a lot of time chasing down the Fed Ex truck while on tour trying to get our merch. It’s a good problem to have,” laughs the good natured and lovely Ruthie. While touring the Canadian Folk Festival circuit in the summer of 2002, Ruthie sold 1000 CDs in a day breaking a long-time record held by Ani DiFranco.

Raised in Gause, Texas, a small town 180 miles southeast of Dallas, Ruthie grew up surrounded by the rich, soulful sounds of gospel and blues. Her outstanding voice and superb original music have many influences including Sam Cooke, Mahalia Jackson, Sister Rosetta Thorpe, Sarah Vaughn, Etta James, and Lightnin’ Hopkins, although perhaps no one has influenced Ruthie like her mother, Shirley Jones, who urged her to “Open your mouth and sing, girl!”

Foster’s musical journey has taken her from McClennan Community College in Waco, Texas and a degree in commercial music to a four-year tour with the U. S. Navy Band “Pride”, to New York City and a contract with Atlantic Records. During her stay in New York, Ruthie appeared at many of the top venues in town opening and performing with artists such as Josh White, Jr., Matt “Guitar” Murphy, the Fabulous Thunderbirds, and Paul Schaffer.

In November of 1993, Ruthie received word from home that her mother, who had been quite ill, needed her. She left New York, Atlantic and her career in music behind and came home to College Station, Texas. She took a job working as a cameraperson and production assistant at the local TV station and spent her off hours caring for her mother.

During this time, Ruthie began singing and playing for some of the elderly people that she had met with her mother, and thus began a heartfelt dedication to giving back to the community that continues to this day.