Editors' pick

Ruthie Foster


Editorial Review

Album review: "Let It Burn"
By Mike Joyce
Friday, Mar. 2, 2012

Need a good reason to check out Ruthie Foster's new CD, "Let It Burn"? Here's the short list: Inspired collaborations with the Blind Boys of Alabama and veteran soulman William Bell; distinctive covers written by (or associated with) Adele, Los Lobos, the Band and Johnny Cash; and original and traditional songs laced with Southern gospel harmonies and Crescent City grooves. But there's no greater incentive than the sound of Foster's gritty, impassioned voice.

Foster's fourth studio collection is her most ambitious offering yet. Recorded in New Orleans, it boasts a terrific core rhythm section, featuring Funky Meters bassist George Porter Jr., and often benefits from the soulful presence of Hammond B-3 organist Ike Stubblefield. Foster concentrates on vocals and harmonies, and as Adele's "Set Fire to the Rain" and Bell's "You Don't Your Miss Your Water," illustrate, the results can be stirring. The latter track, a duet with Bell, underscores a natural compatibility, and when Foster turns her attention to a sultry arrangement of "Ring of Fire," it's easy to imagine to Cassandra Wilson sharing the harmonies.

All told, the Blind Boys of Alabama appear on four cuts, including an a capella version of "The Titanic," the album's powerfully resonating, gospel-charged coda. Amen.