Dedicating one song to her late father who passed away in January 2002, Ruthie Foster's vocals mix gospel with a healthy helping of Texas blues in the vein of Bonnie Raitt or occasionally Melissa Etheridge. The mid-tempo opener, "Runaway Soul," is a solid beginning with harmonica and Hammond organ. Her softer side is also shown in some delightful harmonies. "Woke Up This Mornin'" has a Sunday church feeling, slowly building into a funky Southern track with a choir-like harmony. "Smalltown Blues" takes more of an acoustic slant, featuring mainly Foster and acoustic guitar dominating the tune. Foster rarely takes a wrong turn on the album, knowing her strengths and playing to them. "Home" is a soulful tune that has a tremendous and effortless flow, despite the rather heavy spiritual theme. "Hole in My Pocket," however, treads on similar ground, resulting in the track being a bit more stagnant and difficult to appreciate. One trait that makes the album very cohesive is how organic each song sounds, not slick over-produced radio fodder. "Give You My Love" has somewhat of an Elton John vibe, whether it's the melody or the song's structure. "Ocean of Tears (Mama)" has subtle but distinctive Latin percussion and rhythm in the style of Santana's "Black Magic Woman." Foster tends to be a bit more theatrical here vocally, but not enough to ruin the effort. "Death Came A-Knockin' (Travelin' Shoes)," the track dedicated to her father, is perhaps the album's highlight. The mix of somber lyrics with a moody arrangement makes the best of an otherwise depressing topic. "Joy," which features Foster accompanied by Terri Hendrix, is an upbeat roots gospel rave-up that mixes the Austin sound with some Bible belt harmonies. If these ten "hymns" are a sign of things to come from Foster, they're certainly welcome.
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AllMusic Review by Jason MacNeil