Sunday, November 27, 2011

Any Womans Blues #16 – Ruthie Foster

A happy Monday to you, friends!  The Monday Morning Blues are coming down here, so get ready for some great tunes.

Yes, it’s time for the monthly installment of the Any Woman’s Blues series, our own tribute to women blues guitar-slingers, & this month’s featured performer is truly electrifying.  Ruthie Foster is probably thought of first & foremost as a singer, but she accompanies herself on guitar, & does so very well indeed.  After all, for all that we think of many of the classic bluesmen as guitarists first, blues was historically vocal music—the notion of the blues as a vehicle for guitar pyrotechnics & virtousoic extended solos more or less came into the genre when it hybridized with rock.  The genius of the country blues guitarists was not in their solos, but in their ability to accompany themselves in effective ways—the ability to build riffs & call & response that was the basis for so much playing that’s heard on early recordings.  Of course, early recordings were restricted to a three minute format, & it’s quite possible that in actual performance there was a lot more soling.  Still, when we read accounts of no less a blues personage than Charlie Patton, we learn that often when playing extended pieces for dances he would use the guitar essentially as a drum, beating out a rhythm on the soundboard to stretch out the music.

In any case, Ruthie Foster for my money most definitely belongs in this series.  Of course, as a vocalist, she is nonpareil—her singing has been compared to that of both Ella Fitzgerald & Aretha Franklin, & in this case you can believe the hype—except as you will hear, Foster has a passion & power that’s completely her own.

Foster grew up in Texas in a family of gospel singers.  She studied music McLennan Community College, did a stint in the Navy, & then in the 1990s began a performing career—including a recording contract with Atlantic—that was put on hold for a few years when she took time to care for her mother in her last illness.  However, since the release of Full Circle in 1997, Foster has gone on to win acclaim as a performer, including the Blues Music Award as Best Traditional Blues Female Artist & the Blues Foundation’s Contemporary Blues Female Artist of the Year, both in 2010; Foster has also released at least eight other albums, with the most recent being Live at Antone in 2011 on  Blue Corn Music.

Ruthie Foster keeps up a busy touring schedule, & if she’s in your area, make a point to check here out—you can find out her tour dates here.  In the meantime, please enjoy these two great numbers—I know you will!


  1. Interesting stuff John. I had never come across Ruthie Foster, but thanks to you now I have. Off over to Spotify to see what I can find.

  2. Hi Alan: Sorry for the delay in getting the comment moderated--my internet wasn't connected until this morning. So glad you enjoyed this & are inspired to seek out more of Ruthie Foster's music! Thanks.

  3. Her voice is beautiful (so is the music as a whole, but her voice really does stand out).

  4. Hi HKatz: Absolutely: she is an amazing singer. Still, the guitar has to carry that, & she is also a good accompanist. Thanks!


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