By James Calemine
Texas native Ruthie Foster contends as one of this generation’s finest singers. Her voice is often compared to Ella Fitzgerald, Mavis Staples and Aretha Franklin. Foster’s songwriting also deserves honorable mention. Her six solo albums contain a wealth of material. She recorded her latest studio album–The Truth According To Ruthie Foster–at Ardent Studios in Memphis. The Truth earned Foster a Grammy nomination.
Live at Antone’s encapsulates Foster’s inimitable blend of soul, gospel and blues music. Foster only sings three of her own original compositions on this live recording. Her band on Live at Antone’s includes guitarist Hadden Sayers, keyboardist Scotty Miller, bassist Tonya Richardson and drummer Samantha Banks.
“Stone Love” commences the performance with a soulful swing, and emotive guitar licks by Hadden Sayers. Foster’s hypnotic voice hooks the listener immediately. Foster dedicates the R & B number “I Really Love You” to the audience. “You Keep Me Movin’ On” reminds me of the Staple Singers at their peak.
Foster renders Rosetta Thorpe’s “Up Above My Head” with a conviction usually only found in church. “Runaway Soul” consists of a rock & roll groove that finds the audience eating from Foster’s hand. Foster covers the Lucinda Williams composition “Fruits of My Labor” that really shines like a coal lamp at midnight.
Patty Griffin’s song “When It Don’t Come Easy” sounds like a folk gem, but Foster’s voice emits a rare degree of emotion. Foster’s voice on blues legend O.V. Wright’s “A Nickel and A Nail” reminds me of Ann Peebles from her Hi Records days. Papa Mali lends his guitar expertise on the funky “Heal Yourself”.
“Woke Up This Morning” engages the crowd because Foster’s voice teases the way she utilizes her pitch before the tune kicks in. “Phenomenal Woman” stands as a soul classic, and should be on any number of Billboard charts. This is one of the finest songs on this collection. “Death Come A Knockin’” is pure gospel music.
“Ocean of Tears” ends the performance with a vocal power rivaled by few, and an eclectic instrumentation that demonstrates Foster’s proclivity for musical diversity. Live At Antone’s contains a healthy dose of soul…