Sound Advice: Ruthie Foster with John Ford (Feb. 17)

Blazingly original Blues singer Ruthie Foster plays Southgate House Revival.

click to enlarge Ruthie Foster - Photo: Riccardo Piccirillo
Photo: Riccardo Piccirillo
Ruthie Foster
To say that Ruthie Foster comes from a musical family is like saying the Kennedys are political — it’s accurate but it doesn’t go nearly far enough. The native Texan is at the end of a long familial line of Gospel singers, so naturally she was a soloist in her church choir. But as a community college student pursuing music and audio production, her horizons began to expand. As a result, she found a Blues band that needed a singer and began her unofficial education as a performer.

In search of travel and adventure, Foster joined the Navy, where she sang in Pride, the naval Pop/Funk band. After her hitch, she relocated to New York where she discovered the Folk scene and earned a reputation within that iconic community, ultimately leading to a contract offer from Atlantic Records.

Unfortunately, Atlantic wanted to groom Foster to be a Pop star, a path that didn’t interest her in the least. She declined the offer and continued to seek out new musical outlets in New York until her mother’s illness forced her return to Texas. Foster took a television production position and cared for her ailing mother until her passing in 1996. A year later, Foster self-released her debut album, Full Circle, followed in 1999 by her sophomore set, the aptly titled Crossover. The albums’ independent success attracted the interest of renowned indie label Blue Corn Music, which released her subsequent five studio and two live albums, and will be handling her next release, Joy Comes Back, slated for late March.

Since signing with Blue Corn in 2002, Foster has notched some impressive credits, including three Grammy nominations and several nominations and wins at the Blues Music Awards and the Living Blues Awards. In 2013, Foster won Best Female Vocalist at the prestigious Austin Music Awards, and last year she took home the Living Blues’ coveted Koko Taylor Award for Best Traditional Female Blues Artist. And if you’re looking for some proof of her live power, her résumé includes tours with the Blind Boys of Alabama and Warren Haynes, as well as a 2012 cameo appearance with The Allman Brothers during their Beacon Theatre run in New York. Foster’s live appearances have also resulted in a nomination for Best Live Performer from the Living Blues Awards. 

Ruthie Foster does it all, better than just about anyone and, most importantly, she’s done it on her own blazingly original terms. 

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