Ruthie Foster – Let It Burn
Let It Burn
By Grant Britt
Welcome to the church of Ruthie Foster. Since her debut in ’97, The Austin-based singer/guitarist’s celestial blend of gospel and soul has just kept getting better. Her latest, Let It Burn, recorded in New Orleans, is her first outing not accompanying herself on guitar. Her magnificent voice is featured here, and that’s all you need. But it doesn’t hurt to have the Funky Meters rhythm section, drummer Russell Batiste and bassist George Porter Jr. riding along, accompanied by Ike Stubblefield’s Memphis soul B-3 and saxophonist James Rivers channeling King Curtis. Guitarist Dave Easley slides around like Derek Trucks, and the Blind Boys Of Alabama’s majestic harmonies thrum behind her like a pipe organ, providing the gospel underpinnings on four cuts.
The outstanding cut is her cover of the Black Keys’ “Everlasting Light,” with Foster as the high priestess of gospel soul, wailing like a flaming angel on a tune that sounds like it was ripped right out of a hymnal and lyrically modified to a secular love song. While the Keys’ version is pop with a smidgen of soul, when Foster moans “Let me be your everlasting light/The sun when there is none/ I’m a shepherd for you/And I’ll guide you through,” you want to give up all your worldly possessions and follow her.
“Aim For the Heart” sounds like it was snipped out of Bonnie Raitt’s catalog. Foster takes on classic soul on a duet with William Bell on his “You Don’t Miss Your Water,” immortalized by Otis Redding, and damn near overtakes him with her smoother take, which still reeks with gospel.
It’s heaven by way of Memphis, with a stop in Macon to pick up some Allman- inspired slide to help Foster soar. Lead on Ruthie- your congregation is ready and waiting for more.