The Phenomenal Ruthie Foster Delights Hill Country Music Fans with a Performance in Wimberley, Texas

"Ruthie Foster fans, brace yourselves."(1)

Ruthie Foster performs at Susanna's Kitchen on Thursday, December 20, 2007. Doors open at 7 PM and performance is at 7:30.

If you haven’t yet been introduced to the music of this prodigiously gifted singer and songwriter from Texas, you’re in for a major epiphany. And if you’ve been following Foster’s career ever since her self-released, 1997 debut, Full Circle, or even since her 2002 breakthrough, Runaway Soul, you’re in for an even bigger surprise, because you really haven’t ever heard Foster until you hear her now. Simply put, mama’s gotta brand new bag.

Ruthie Foster's latest album includes the title, "phenomenal," a description that fits her unique talent like a glove.

She admits to initially having “quite a few reservations” about calling her fifth album The Phenomenal Ruthie Foster, crediting both her producer, noted Austin-based “swamp music” guitarist Malcolm “Papa Mali” Welbourne, and her label, Houston’s Blue Corn Records, for making that particular gutsy call. As for how they came up with it, just listen to her amazing talent, and you’ll understand. The big shoes fit perfectly.

"Ruthie Foster has been the pride of Texas for many years, but is has only been in the past few that the rest of the U.S. has begun to discover this talented guitarist/singer/songwriter.  A vocalist with the ability to wail like Mahalia Jackson or lightly touch a note like Shawn Colvin, Foster has created her own unique, attractive blend of folk, blues and gospel that simply deserves to be heard."(2)

Early on Foster quickly established herself as one of the acoustic music world’s brightest stars. From the Kerrville Folk Festival to Austin City Limits to stages all across North America and Europe, she won thousands of new fans a night and sold a staggering average of 100 CDs per show. At a festival in Canada, she even broke Ani DiFranco’s record by selling 1,000 CDs in a single day. (“I love Canada,” laughs Foster.)

All those records carried considerable critical acclaim, too, especially her last two, the Lloyd Maines-produced Runaway Soul and the live Stages. Both live and on disc, Foster mixed contemporary folk with old-school gospel and blues with dazzling efficiency, showcasing a powerhouse voice that drew more favorable comparisons to the likes of Ella Fitzgerald and Aretha Franklin than the poor girl knew what to do with.

You can still hear traces of that Foster on her new album — most notably in the rootsy fun of “Beaver Creek Blues,” the gospel revival spirit of “Mama Said” and the dark, stomping a cappella thunder of the Son House cover “People Grinnin’ In your Face.”

But Papa Mali had a deeper view into Ruthie's talent and Foster was delighted to discover that his vision tapped deep into her own roots as a music lover. Together with a crack band including drummer George Sluppick (Mofro), bassist Glenn Fukunaga (Dixie Chicks, Terri Hendrix) and Hammond B3 player Anthony Farrell (Greyhounds), they set out to make an honest to goodness classic soul album. The kind that, in a different era, with a different singer, could just as easily have been called The Phenomenal Sam Cooke.

“A lot of folks don’t know this, but that really is my background,” says Foster. “I come from a deep background of old soul and blues and even R&B. Early on, long before I ever got into the folk thing, I was doing more soul on acoustic guitar than anything else. And that’s always been a part of the sound that I have.”

The difference, she says, is all in the instrumentation — and more importantly, the groove.

Come and hear the phenomenal Ruthie Foster for yourself in her December performance in Wimberley, Texas.

Ruthie Foster performs at Susanna's Kitchen on Thursday, December 20, 2007. Susanna's Kitchen is a monthly coffeehouse, smoke and alcohol free, featuring coffee and teas, as well as pies from Wimberley Pie Company. Ticket prices may vary, but are usually $15 for adults, $10 for kids 14-18, kids under 14 free. Doors open at 7 PM and performance is at 7:30.

(1) This Is Texas Music

(2) Soul Tracks