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I started a quest to find terrific blues music and incredible musicianship when I was just a little kid. I also have a tremendous appreciation of fine musical instruments and equipment. One of my greatest joys all of my life was sharing my finds with my friends. I'm now publishing my journey. I hope that you come along!

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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Bman's Exclusive Interview with Ruthie Foster

Bman: Hi Ruthie. I appreciate you taking the time out from your schedule to talk with me. I'm extremely embarrassed to say that I wasn't aware of your work until I heard this most recent recording, " Let It Burn". This recording is just incredible... possibly the freshest and most enjoyable recording that I've listened to all year. Have you been storing this up or are all of your recordings this great?

Ruthie: Thank you. This particular CD is a combination of songs I've been sitting on waiting for the right opportunity and the right compilation and also songs my producer John Chelew introducing great songs to me.

Bman: Well, you done a fabulous job! I need to get out and get the rest of your recordings because this one is just so soothing and enjoyable to listen to.

Ruthie: Thanks, it's always a joy to hear about what "new" fans have to say about my music, "Let It Burn" is the most mellow of all my recordings. It was enjoyable to be able to get into a soulfully soothing vibe and stay there for a while.

Bman: Here's the funny thing. I really am not that vocally oriented. I mean, I hear the voice as just another instrument and listen to the music as a whole... as a composition. I usually find people's voices a distraction from what I want to hear. There are rare exceptions. People who's voices are just over the top...of course Aretha, James Brown, Al Green, Ella, Son House, Skip James, Muddy, Janis, Erykah Badu, D'Angelo, Jill Scott, Macy Gray, Steve Marriott, Jimmy Hall, Amy Winehouse...not really a lot more .. and some that most wouldn't think... like Courtney Love, Brody Dalle, Fiona Apple and Hope Sandoval. That isn't a lot of vocalists when I think of all of the music that I have listened to. I feel that you are in rare air! No one has likely called my attention to you because those who know me know that they will get put down for recommending a vocalist... because nobody ever measures up.

Ruthie: You mentioned a lot of vocalists here that I also consider phenomenal. I feel that a great vocalist always brings something yummy to the table. Sometimes it's in their phrasing (Ella, of course) or groove and melodic genuis (Jill Scott, Eryka Badu) or the energy and ability to lift a musical piece to another level (Son House, James Brown) or even just the timbre of their overall sound (Aretha, Al, Amy and Macy); it usually comes very naturally for the great singers. A lot of listeners are more drawn to 'over the top' voices, I have to say that there's just as much to be said and perhaps discovered about singers who are amazingly subtle in their delivery but add so much to the plate of music, singers like Shirley Horn to musicians who initially weren't even thought of as singers such as Chet Baker or Eric Clapton.

Bman: Exactly right....well said. Your new recording, "Let It Burn" is so masterfully crafted it sounds like it could have been recorded in Muscle Shoals along side of Clarence Carter , King Curtis , Aretha Franklin , Wilson Pickett , Otis Rush , Percy Sledge , Johnny Jenkins , Boz Scaggs , Delaney & Bonnie with Skyman on slide guitar. The entire piece is just so well put together. Did you check out any of these old recordings? Not trying to get you to divulge any secrets...but I'm serious. The recording is so real!

Ruthie: I have a large palette of musical taste but my early influences were definitely from the Muscle Shoals collections, Texas blues and country music, Memphis soul and a lot of gospel recordings. Though I did do a lot of channeling during this recording of great voices from Mavis Staples to Cassandra Wilson.

Bman: It definitely has "the sound". I know I've looked at the sleeve at least 5 times to see Derek Trucks name on there... is the player really Dave Easley? His playing is masterful! Did you arrange the recordings as well? I mean a good part of the recording is how well it's put together and arranged. Vocals and harmonies and soloing just at the right time!

Ruthie: Dave was a skillful add to this cd. I was also beautifully surprised at how he really nailed the atmosphere of each section of every song (and was very detailed about what he wanted to do with each one, thankfully).

Overall this was John Chelew's love child in every way, he was the director and painted a picture of what he envisioned for each song and when you have masterful musicians such as what was put together for this project then you will get what you want..and then some!

Bman: Well, I hope that you each get the notoriety that you deserve for this project! Your interpretation of Ring of Fire is unbelievable! Who would have thought that? I mean, Savoy Brown doing Al Green doing the Temptations... but you doing Johnny Cash?

Ruthie: I've always thought of "Ring of Fire" as brilliant love song and this arrangement found me late, late one night after being unable to sleep. I was truly exhausted emotionally and physically after coming to an end of a long tour as well as a relationship I was in at the time. So this came from a deep place I will not be able to comprehend or explain even to myself.

Bman: It sounds deeply personal. As I listen over and over to the recordings I hear so much and I keep coming back to that early Muscle Shoals sound... and that is a true heartfelt compliment! The overall musical arrangement and feel is just perfect... like a time capsule... that is never been opened!

Ruthie: That makes me smile. Thank you.

Bman: I doubt that you saw my review of your release because there have likely been 50,000 of them but I think that you can tell that you have a definite new fan! I am just amazed at what you have done with other artists compositions. They are all stellar interpretations of music that I would never have considered in the context that you have presented them.

Ruthie: I do hope that my arrangements open up more fans to these songs.

Bman: Everyone should hear this record. I really think it is that good. Ok. I guess that you know that I really love the recording. What are you working on now. Are you touring to support the release?

Ruthie:Yes, we will be out for the next year or so spreading the news of the new release. A tour with Paul Thorn is coming up in February 2012 along with performances in Europe and Australia. I'm looking forward to getting on the road with new songs.

Bman: I'm hoping that your tour is coming my way! I love the way you open and close the recording with the Blind Boys of Alabama. I know that you have worked with them before. Are you touring with them now or primarily on your own?

Ruthie: I have toured with the Blind Boys and enjoyed every mile and every note of the tour.

But I'll be on the road predominantly with my own band for 2012. With a trio on some shows, quartet to five piece on others. But my core is Samantha Banks on drums and Tanya Richardson (my cousin) on bass. Though I didn't play on this cd I will be covering a lot of the guitar work myself while in the trio format.

Bman: Thanks a lot for your time and good luck. I can't wait to see what you come up with next.. but good that I have 6 previous recordings to check out really soon (your previous recordings)! Do you have anything else that you would like to share with your fans?

Ruthie: Thank you. You will find a big mix of music from my first recording to the present. As any artist hopes, I trust that you'll see thru my archives that have lived, learned and hopefully grown musically.

Message for my fans and future fans, I always come to town ready to have a "halleluia time" so if you need some of that then come join us and let's all feast and get full on the awesome gift of music!
Thank you.

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