Ruthie Foster has a powerhouse of a blues/gospel voice, which she never allows to overpower a song. If youâ€™re not sold already, Foster made her newest album in New Orleans with the Blind Boys of Alabama and a cast of hotshot players. It wouldnâ€™t have killed them to restrain the Hammond organ player once in a while, but thatâ€™s being picky: the project brings a truckload of soul and grit.
Foster contributes just two original songs. Both sound good, especially â€śLord Remember Me,â€ť with its a capella opening:
But the main event is covers, sometimes dramatically reimagined. â€śYou Donâ€™t Miss Your Waterâ€ť is particularly good, a swing blues groove upping the soul balladâ€™s energy much as the Byrdsâ€™ countrified version didâ€”though Fosterâ€™s approach also sits well under a guest vocal by the original performer, William Bell.
â€śRing of Fireâ€ť fails as a ballad, its lyrics stripped of all danger. And while â€śIf I Had a Hammerâ€ť certainly needed a less relentlessly cheery makeover, there was no need to get rid of the songâ€™s word-painting backbeat. Otherwise, however, Foster offers great and infectious stuff.