With a naturally expressive voice that has drawn comparisons to greats like Aretha Franklin and Ella Fitzgerald, Texas-based singer and songwriter Ruthie Foster mixes a wide palette of American song forms, from gospel and blues to jazz, folk, and soul into her music, and her live performances are powerfully transfiguring. Foster grew up in Gause, TX, a small town in the Brazos Valley southeast of Dallas, and even as a child she was fascinated by music, and she listened to everything she could, hearing and absorbing not just gospel and blues, but also the country and pop songs she heard on the radio. By the age of 14 she was a soloist in a local choir and was certain that her future would revolve around music. When she moved to Waco to attend community college, her studies concentrated around music and audio engineering, and she began fronting a blues band, learning how to command a stage in the rough bars of Texas. Hoping to travel and gain a wider world perspective, Foster joined the Navy, but her obvious musical talents soon had her singing with Pride, a Navy band that played pop and funk hits at recruitment drives in the southeastern U.S. Following her tour of duty, Foster landed in New York City where she regularly played various folk venues. Atlantic Records offered her a recording deal, figuring they had a budding pop star on their hands, but Foster wasn't interested in moving in that direction, preferring instead to explore the various strains of American roots music that had informed her childhood. When her mother fell ill in 1993, Foster left New York and her recording deal and returned to Texas. She began working as a camera operator and production assistant at a TV station in College Station, TX while she cared for her mother, who passed in 1996. A year later in 1997 Foster self-released the album Full Circle before hooking up with Blue Corn Music, which released Crossover in 1999, Runaway Soul in 2002, Stages (featuring a series of live tracks) in 2004, Heal Yourself in 2006, The Phenomenal Ruthie Foster in 2008, and The Truth According to Ruthie Foster, recorded at Ardent Studios in Memphis, in 2009. An engaging live performer, Foster continued to tour regularly, wowing audiences with her powerful voice and stylistic range, all of which was captured in the concert CD/DVD set Live at Antone's, which appeared from Blue Corn Records in 2011. A new studio outing, Let It Burn, followed in 2012, also from Blue Corn. ~ Steve Leggett
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