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Tuesday, December 13, 2016
Ruthie Foster 'Joy Comes Back' coming March 24th on Blue Corn Records
THREE-TIME GRAMMY NOMINEE RUTHIE FOSTER TRANSFORMS SORROW INTO CAREER-DEFINING SOUL/BLUES/GOSPEL/ROCK OPUS JOY COMES BACK, RELEASING MARCH 24 ON BLUE
Derek Trucks, Willie Weeks,
Joe Vitale, Warren Hood among guests on songs by Chris Stapleton,
Mississippi John Hurt, Stevie Wonder and even Black Sabbath
Texas — In the tightknit musical community of Austin, Texas, it’s tough to
get away with posturing. You either bring it, or you don’t.
you do, word gets around. Praises are sung. And one day, you find yourself
duetting with Bonnie Raitt, or standing onstage with the Allman Brothers at
New York’s Beacon Theater and trading verses with Susan Tedeschi. You might
even wind up getting nominated for a Best Blues Album Grammy — three times
in a row. In addition to your six Female Artist of the Year/Koko Taylor
Blues Music Awards.
only one Austinite with that résumé: Ruthie Foster. And when she
releases Joy Comes Back, her eighth Blue Corn Music album, on
March 24, 2017,
the Recording Academy might want to put its engraver on notice. Because
every note on it confirms this truth: It’s Ruthie’s time.
she recorded these songs, Foster wasn’t merely singing about love and loss;
she was splitting a household and custody of her 5-year-old daughter. Music
was her therapy.
the warm confines of Austin producer and former neighbor Daniel Barrett’s
studio, she found a comfort level she’d never before experienced while
recording. It gave her the strength to pour the heartache of her family’s
fracture and the cautious hope of new love into 10 incredible tracks, nine
of which are by a diverse array of writers ranging from Mississippi John
Hurt, Sean Staples and Grace Pettis (daughter of renowned folk
singer Pierce Pettis), to Chris Stapleton and Black Sabbath.
Yes, Black Sabbath: Foster reimagines “War Pigs” as a jam session with Son
House. She also covers the Four Tops’ “Loving You Is Sweeter Than Ever,”
written by Ivy Jo Hunter and Stevie Wonder.
she makes each one hers, aided by some special guests. Tedeschi’s husband, Derek
Trucks, drops slide guitar into the title tune; bassist Willie Weeks
(Bowie, Clapton, George Harrison) plays on the Foster-penned “Open
Sky”; and drumming legend Joe Vitale (Crosby, Stills & Nash; the
Eagles) appears on several tracks. Grace Pettis adds guitar to “Working
Woman” and vocals on “Good Sailor,” Pettis’ co-write with Haley Cole.
Local hero Warren Hood (“Champ Hood’s boy,” as Foster calls him)
lays fiddle and mandolin on Hurt’s bluegrass-tinted “Richland Woman Blues.”
Barrett plays guitars, drums and percussion; other contributors include Brian
Standefer, Eric Holden, Frank LoCrasto, Nicholas Ryland and Red
Young, as well as the core members of Ruthie’s touring band, Samantha
Banks and Larry Fulcher.
one point, Barrett described the album to Hood as “some blues, some folk,
some soul, some rock, some gospel.” Hood replied, “Sounds like Ruthie
And “Ruthie Foster music” is an adventurous trip, harboring in places where
stylistic limitations don’t exist and anything is worth trying. Which
explains how she can turn even a song she was initially unsure about,
“Loving You Is Sweeter Than Ever,” into a gospel-pop tour-de-force that
could make Aretha Franklin jealous. “Once in a while I get a song I just
resist, but I go ahead and start feeling what it feels like to sing it,”
Foster explains. “That was one of those songs; it just felt good to sing.”
for motivating herself in the studio if sparks don’t flash immediately, she
says that’s been part of the job. “I go in, I’m prepared, I sing, and then
I go home.” What she didn’t do in the past was hang out in the studio.
Foster and Barrett had already spent many caffeine-fueled hours discussing
music and life before recording; that continued as they worked — with
occasional breaks to catch a loose neighborhood dog or entertain an ailing
child. “Those small, real-life interruptions made it really nice for me,”
she says. “They made it less like a job, which opened me up creatively.”
weren’t even planning an album at first; they’d just decided to work up
some songs, starting with “Forgiven,” by the Weepies’ Deb Talan. A
gorgeous, majestic and moving ballad, it’s the perfectly placed final
track. “This song said so much about what I was going through,” Foster says
softly. “To have it be the catalyst for this album was a gift.” She cried
during the playback — for the first time in her career.
emotional nakedness is exactly what makes Joy Comes Back so
extraordinary. On songs such as Pettis’ powerful “Good Sailor,” Foster, a
Navy vet, plunged right into lines like I've been tossed around in the
deepest blue/I almost drowned a time or two/But easy living never did me no
favors/Smooth seas never made a good sailor.”
written so well, I was upset that I hadn’t written it myself,” Foster says,
laughing. When Pettis heard the track, she told Foster, “It’s your song
now.” Foster also claimed Pettis’ “Working Woman,” a rousing soul anthem of
empowerment — and righteous anger.
takes listeners to church on the gospel-soul title song, augmenting
Staples’ lyrics with some of her own. When she told Barrett that in her
childhood church, percussion was provided by the sisters’ tapping heels, he
borrowed a neighbor’s high-heeled shoes and miked his well-aged oak floor.
They banged away like kids.
Pigs” reminded Foster of nights spent servicing Naval helicopters with guys
who liked their heavy metal cranked to 11. But her version, with spectral
harmonica by Simon Wallace, Barrett’s Porterdavis bandmate, is more
wanted something unexpected that would be cool to do at festivals,” Foster
says. “To get people out of their seats or tents to find out what the heck
is that? Who is this little ol’ short black woman doing Black Sabbath on a
past albums, Foster says, “It was about being a professional singer, a
hallelujah-chorus girl. But I’m a real person, and relaying that through
this music and the stories behind it is really important to me. I haven’t
written much because it’s been rough for me to put pen to paper, but Dan,
having spent at least a year and a half being a listener and witness to my
life, found these songs that have a lot to do with where I was and where I
am — and who I am.”
2014’s Promise of a Brand New Day, producer Meshell Ndegeocello
encouraged her to write originals. But a true artist can make any song his
or her own, no matter who wrote it. And truly extraordinary artists do it
so well that their version becomes definitive.
myself into another person’s words was huge for me,” Foster says. “I
connect more to my voice these days than I do to anything. Even speaking —
that was something my grandmother worked with me on, because I would
stutter. It was a big deal for me to connect to words as a young kid. So
I’m coming full circle.”
Barrett, “It was one of the privileges of my artistic life, getting to
watch an artist of her magnitude find her voice anew. You could drop her
anywhere on earth and people would feel the truth in her voice.”