Those who have followed Ruthie Foster’s eclectic musical history know that she can burn down any stage with her combustible blend of soul, blues, rock, folk and gospel. And when Grammy Award-winning producer John Chelew suggested she record an album in New Orleans — with support handpicked from the Crescent City’s overflowing pool of talent — it was an opportunity for Ruthie to infuse fresh spices into her already rich sonic gumbo. The result is Let It Burn, a recording that smolders, sizzles and ignites with an intensity born from her vibrant voice and indelible presence.
Ruthie’s astonishing voice has taken her on an amazing ride. She came from humble church choir beginnings in rural Texas, followed by a tour of duty with the U.S. Navy Band, and ended up in New York City with a major-label development deal that went sour. After she moved back to Texas to care for her ailing mother, Foster took a break from singing professionally for a couple of years. When she resumed her music career in Austin, shebecame a regular nominee at the Austin Music Awards, winning Best Folk Artist in 2004-05 and Best Female Vocalist in 2007-08. Broadening her sound by blending blues and soul aspects into her folk roots,Ruthie added a Grammy nomination to herlist of achievements (Best Contemporary Blues Album for her last studio release, 2009’s The Truth According to Ruthie Foster). And, in a nod to her astounding range, she then won seemingly contradictory Blues Music Association awards for both Best Traditional and Best Contemporary Female Blues Artist in back-to-back years.
In addition to leading her own band and touring it around the world, Foster has also collaborated on stage and recordings with a diverse list of artists including Warren Haynes, Big Head Todd, Bonnie Raitt, Eric Bibb and Paul Thorn. She’s a regular favorite at an equally diverse list of festivals such as the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, the Monterey Blues Festival, Merlefest and the Kate Wolf Festival.
The ingredients for Let It Burn, recorded at New Orleans’ Piety Street Studios, start with some of that city’s most respected players: The Funky Meters’ rhythm section of bassist George Porter Jr. and drummer Russell Batiste, guitarist Dave Easley, and renowned saxophonist James Rivers collectively infuse the tracks with the groove-based, in-the-pocket vibe that comes naturally to New Orleans-bred musicians. The addition of Hammond B3 wizard Ike Stubblefield, who has toured and recorded with everyone from Curtis Mayfield to Eric Clapton, gives the album a jazzy organ-combo feel. Finally, legendary gospel singers the Blind Boys of Alabama and soul icon William Bell add extra depth to the project’s surprisingly eclectic collection of cover songs and fresh originals.