Captivating – Ruthie Foster goes solo in Cincinnati

2/17/17 – Southgate House Revival, Newport, KY

I’ve seen my share of solo acoustic shows, yet few have the ability to keep an audience’s attention quite like Ruthie Foster. Chalk it up to her Texas roots – there’s just so much diversity in music down there, and it was on full display during her show Friday night. There was plenty of blues – her own “Singing the Blues,” Mississippi John Hurt’s “Richland Woman Blues,” and even something she called a “Texas Two-Step Blues.”

Those were coupled with soulful numbers like “The Ghetto” by the Staple Singers, a surprise arrangement of “Oh Susannah,” and a vast re-working of Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire.” Several gospel songs allowed her an opportunity to belt things out, even stepping back from the microphone to sing, like Sister Rosetta Tharpe’s “Up Above My Head” and a blues-holler-meets-the-pupit in “Runaway Spirit.”

But the one song that stood out was a moving version of her life-affirming anthem, “Phenomenal Woman” – that one made the entire crowd leap up for a spontaneous, rousing ovation. She encored with a taste of her forthcoming album, “Joy Comes Back.”

Foster, who usually is accompanied by a band, admitted between songs that it was a bigger challenge up there by herself, but delighted when the crowd helped sing her songs.

The best news of the night came from the Cincinnati Blues Society, who announced that Foster would be back, this time with a full band, for the Cincy Blues Fest in August.

Icon Fetch did an audio interview with Ruthie Foster which will be posted soon.  –Tony Peters