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Ruthie Foster: Joy Comes Back

by Jeff Tamarkin on May 19, 2017
Now here’s a song you never expect to hear on a blues album: “War Pigs,” the Black Sabbath classic. It’s six tunes in on three-time Grammy nominee Ruthie Foster’s latest, and damn if it doesn’t kick some ass. Foster has never been one to shy away from trying something different, and it doesn’t take more than a few seconds of pounding drums, nasty harmonica, floor-shaking bass and Foster’s own slip-sliding Dobro before you know she’s serious here. Her voice comes next, smooth but tough, at times bordering on lethal—you do not want to get in this woman’s way. But then she flips the dial a complete 180 on this album, whose title references the reality of Foster’s recent life, a time when not everything has been going her way. The title track draws on another sensibility, the gospel music that—as is true for so many blues artists—Foster absorbed in her youth. It’s uplifting but never saccharine, hopeful but forthright, and it’s got Derek Trucks providing the slide, about which nothing more needs to be said. Other material here comes from a diverse list of songwriters, ranging from Chris Stapleton to Mississippi John Hurt, and the team of Stevie Wonder and Ivy Jo Hunter, whose “Loving You Is Sweeter Than Ever” was a big hit for the Four Tops in 1966. Foster effortlessly summons the soul that the Motowners built into it and brings her best game. She really knows no other way.
Authors: Jeff Tamarkin
Artist: Ruthie Foster
Album: Joy Comes Back
Label: Blue Corn