Ruthie Foster

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On this CD recorded at various shows, Ruthie Foster is a folkie at heart, but she meshes various styles and nuances into each song, beginning with the short but pleasing tango-like intro to the powerful and soulful "Ocean of Tears." The song glides along gracefully as Foster's earthy delivery fuels the slightly Latin textures, with assistance from partner Cyd Cassone on percussion. Foster's uplifting and spiritual approach often keeps original acoustic folk tunes like "Crossover" flowing effortlessly. "This is something I wrote in a Sam Cooke style," she says before starting "Another Rain Song" with more of a bluesy folk approach with minimal instrumentation. The first of several highlights comes during a give-and-take effort on the reggae-tinged and melodic "Real Love." The singer takes things down somewhat with a jazzy cover of Billie Holiday's "God Bless the Child," with mixed results at best. The stellar "Death Came a Knockin' (Travelin' Shoes)" is also simple but quite pleasing. Perhaps the sleeper picks come in the second half, as "Prayin' for Rain" and "Get Out of My Way" have a dreamy folk-pop aura in the vein of a sparse Melissa Etheridge. There are a few anecdotes included as Foster mentions how people often think she's Tracy Chapman when they first hear her. The interaction between Foster and the crowd also shines on the rambling "Church," which isn't so much a song as a description of Foster growing up in a Baptist church atmosphere. And by the time you listen to her version of Stephen Foster's "Oh! Susannah," you realize that Foster will be doing this brand of folk quite well for quite a long time.

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