She's been recording for a decade, but Texas singer/songwriter Ruthie Foster was a fairly well-kept secret on the folk/roots circuit until her 2007 breakthrough, The Phenomenal Ruthie Foster, which nearly lived up to its audacious title. Given the strength of this follow-up, though, the old adage about a boast not being a boast if you can back it up certainly seems to apply, as Foster rises to the occasion here with a work that matches her clear talents with the sharpest stylistic focus of her career.
Propelled by an aces-up backing band that includes guitarist Robben Ford and keyboardist Jim Dickinson, this Memphis-recorded set finds Foster using her core eclecticism as more springboard than calling card, and the overall skew toward blues and gospel-edged R&B pays off handsomely. Tracks like the swinging "Stone Love," the sinewy "Truth!," and the funk-filled "Dues Paid in Full" deftly showcase Foster's muscular vocals as well as her way around a lyric.
Topping it all off, there's "Joy on the Other Side," an acoustic piece with Foster on slide guitar that's simply, well, phenomenal. And that's the truth.
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