Ruthie Foster

The Phenomenal Ruthie Foster (Blue Corn)

Texas Platters

Ruthie Foster

The Phenomenal Ruthie Foster (Blue Corn)

Decades ago, folks like Ray Charles and Aretha Franklin were described with words like "genius" and "electrifying" in album titles. In that tradition, Ruthie Foster refers to herself as "phenomenal," and anyone who's witnessed her talents as a vocalist would hardly disagree. Claiming that her fifth release is a bold new direction, as some have, is open to discussion. Sure it leans a little heavier in the direction of old-school soul than she has in the past. Phenomenal, however, as with previous efforts, offers a hefty dose of gospel and blues from Son House and Sister Rosetta Tharpe, while her soaring remake of Lucinda Williams' "Fruits of My Labor" arguably beats the original. Producer Malcolm "Papa Mali" Welbourne brings a contemporary sensibility that finds Foster closing the gap with blues mamas of Joan Osborne's ilk, although the singular voice the Austinite has cultivated over the years is what makes her truly phenomenal.

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