Ignore the inherent hubris reflected in the title of Ruthie Foster’s fifth album. Foster more than delivers on this declaration thanks to a rich and soulful singing style enhanced by the Texan’s equally formidable playing on guitar and Wurlitzer electric piano. Gospel and blues are obvious influences, notably on the Bill Withers-flavored rhythm arrangement of Sister Rosetta Tharpe’s “Up Above My Head (I Hear Music in the Air)” and her going-to-church interpretation of Son House’s “People Grinnin’ In Your Face” accompanied solely by handclaps and stomps. Equally effective is how Lucinda Williams’s “Fruits of My Labor” is transformed via Foster’s controlled vibrato and a splash of vibraphone. Most impressive, however, is “Phenomenal Woman,” a Maya Angelou poem originally set to music by Canadian artists Amy Sky and David Pickett. With Foster’s emotiveness, her ever-present electric piano and the song’s female harmonies, “Woman” sounds like an outtake from a late ’60s Aretha Franklin album. Throw in self-penned originals like the ultra-funky, organ-driven jam “Heal Yourself” and the lightly orchestrated break-up lament “I Don’t Know What to Do With My Heart,” and it is clear that The Phenomenal Ruthie Foster is a fitting title.

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Weight 8 oz


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