Saturday, February 3, 2018

Ruthie Foster at Zankel Hall

Ruthie Foster came from a family of gospel singers in Gause, Texas. At age 14, she was a soloist in her hometown choir and was convinced that her future career would be in music. Foster then studied music and audio engineering at a community college in Waco, Texas, and began fronting a blues band playing Texas bars. Foster joined the U.S. Navy, singing pop and funk hits in the naval band Pride. After the military, Foster relocated to New York City, where she performed American roots music at local folk venues. When her mother fell ill in 1993, Foster returned to Texas to be with her family. She reignited her career there, in due time winning seven Blues Music Awards, three Austin Music Awards, a Living Blues Critics’ Award, and the Grand Prix du Disque award from the Académie Charles-Cros in France. Her eighth and most recent studio album, Joy Comes Back, was released on March 24, 2017.

Roseanne Cash is a creative partner in the American Byways roots music series at Zankel Hall, and she introduced Ruthie Foster by relating how impressed she was with Foster's inventive reinterpretation of Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire." Foster on guitar and vocals was backed by her trio (Scottie Miller, keyboards, mandolin, vocals; Samantha Banks, drums, vocals; Larry Fulcher, bass guitar, vocals) and instantly began to smoke with a combustion of red-hot soul, blues, rock, folk, jazz and gospel, all within a set of only 10 songs. Foster's rich and hearty vocals were gutsy and gripping as she blazed through original songs and covers. The quartet came together for ensemble singing on Homer Banks/Bonnie Bramlett/Bettye Crutcher’s poignant "The Ghetto," but  she handled Son House’s "People Grinnin’ in Your Face" as a mostly solo a cappella. Like Foster's variation on "Ring of Fire," the entire performance was, well, blazing.

Visit Ruthie Foster at