Ruthie Foster’s New Album Let It Burn Features The Blind Boys of Alabama, William Bell And More – Out January 31, 2012
Ruthie Foster will release her new album, Let It Burn, on January 31, 2012. The CD features special guests The Blind Boys of Alabama, soul legend William Bell, and the rhythm section of The Funky Meters (bassist George Porter Jr. and drummer Russell Batiste). Recorded in New Orleans with producer John Chelew (The Blind Boys of Alabama, John Hiatt, Richard Thompson), Let It Burnalso includes New Orleans-bred guitarist Dave Easley, renowned saxophonist James Rivers and Ike Stubblefield (Curtis Mayfield, Marvin Gaye, and Eric Clapton) on organ.
In addition to two new tracks from Foster, “Lord Remember Me” and “Aim for the Heart,” Ruthie adds her signature sound to songs by Adele, Black Keys, Los Lobos, Johnny Cash, The Band, Pete Seeger, Crosby, Stills & Nash and more. Let It Burn is also Ruthie’s first album where she does not play an instrument. Foster explains, “It gave me a lot more freedom vocally. Without a guitar, all I did was concentrate on singing.”
Ruthie recently won the 2011 Koko Taylor Blues Music Award for Traditional Blues Female Artist of the Year. This is her second consecutive Blues Music Award, following a win in 2010 for Contemporary Blues Female Artist of the Year. She followed up her 2010 GRAMMY nominated The Truth According To Ruthie Foster (Best Contemporary Blues Album) with her first live concert DVD, and accompanying bonus CD, Live At Antone’s, taped live at the legendary venue in her hometown of Austin, Texas.
In addition to touring with her own band around the world, Foster has also collaborated with a diverse list of artists including Warren Haynes, Big Head Todd, Bonnie Raitt, Eric Bibb and Paul Thorn. She’s a regular favorite at an equally diverse list of festivals such as the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, the Monterey Blues Festival, Merlefest and the Kate Wolf Festival.
Ruthie Foster – Let It Burn
Format: CD / Label: Blue Corn Music / Release: 31 January 2012
1. Welcome Home 2:50
2. Set Fire To The Rain 4:18
3. This Time 4:48
4. You Don’t Miss Your Water 3:59
5. Everlasting Light 3:33
6. Lord Remember Me 3:11
7. Ring Of Fire 3:09
8. Aim For The Heart 3:27
9. It Makes No Difference 5:10
10. Long Time Gone 5:15
11. Don’t Want To Know 6:20
12. If I Had A Hammer 4:11
13. The Titanic 2:50
The ingredients for Let It Burn, recorded at New Orleans’ Piety Street Studios, start with some of that city’s most respected players: The Funky Meters’ rhythm section of bassist George Porter Jr. and drummer Russell Batiste, guitarist Dave Easley, and renowned saxophonist James Rivers collectively infuse the tracks with the groove-based, in-the-pocket vibe that comes naturally to New Orleans-bred musicians. The addition of Hammond B3 wizard Ike Stubblefield, who has toured and recorded with everyone from Curtis Mayfield to Eric Clapton, gives the album a jazzy organ-combo feel. Finally, legendary gospel singers the Blind Boys of Alabama and soul icon William Bell add extra depth to the project’s surprisingly eclectic collection of cover songs and fresh originals.
Besides the New Orleans location, there was another significant “first” associated with these sessions. “This is the only album I’ve done where I don’t play an instrument, which is really different. It gave me a lot more freedom vocally. Without a guitar, all I did was concentrate on singing,” Foster explains. “Sometimes I tried to channel Mavis Staples vocally, but I also wanted to bring a kind of Cassandra Wilson/Sade sultriness to some of the songs.”
The results are powerful, defining performances of Adele’s anthemic “Set Fire to the Rain,” John Martyn’s poignant and sensual “Don’t Want to Know,” and Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire,” all of which take on new vibrancy with distinctive musical arrangements and Ruthie’s commanding presence. The achingly beautiful, atmospheric ballad version of “Ring of Fire” is at the heart of this album, and potently showcases Foster as one of the finest interpretive singers of our time. “When it comes to songs, often older ones, I love it when they find me and that’s what happened with ‘Ring of Fire.’ I put myself inside of that song, which speaks to the passion of a new relationship,” she says.
Ruthie mines other tunes from a variety of sources such as the Black Keys (“Everlasting Light,” given a sparkling and righteous treatment), Pete Seeger (a dynamic, ominous swamp/jazz reimagining of “If I Had a Hammer”) and Los Lobos (the rambling, haunting “This Time”).
The church is never far from anything Foster touches as her spiritual original “Lord Remember Me” with the Blind Boys, featuring a sanctified slide solo from guitarist Easley, makes clear. The album’s opening and closing tracks also spotlight the Blind Boys and bookend the project with a devotional approach. “I haven’t lost my gospel in the way I approach a song,” explains Ruthie.
Another new Foster song is “Aim for the Heart” (a co-write with Jon Tiven), which works Porter’s funky bass, Stubblefield’s expressive organ and Easley’s snake-like guitar into a groove which supports the deeply personal motto (“Aim for the heart/And you’ll never go wrong”) that Foster has exhibited in both her life and music.
Rounding out this smoldering collection of tunes are covers of The Band’s melancholic “It Makes No Difference,” David Crosby’s politically charged “Long Time Gone” and William Bell’s classic “You Don’t Miss Your Water” (with Bell dueting on a slow, jazz/blues version of the standard, augmented by a stunning Rivers solo), all of which further display Ruthie’s uncanny knack for finding the simmering essence of any song.
On Let It Burn, Ruthie Foster takes the listener on her most personal journey yet, sounding like she is pouring her heart out late at night, and her deeply soulful vocals create a spiritual soundscape to support her testimony. This is the album her fans have been waiting for — and that the rest of the world will listen to in wonder.