Edmonton Blues Fest brings Ruthie Foster for Sunday’s grand finale

His visit to this year’s Edmonton Blues Festival will include his induction into the Edmonton Blues Hall of Fame, Legends category.

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Ruthie Foster is not an overtly political songwriter and admits she has never had to sit down and write a protest song. Then, on her latest studio album – 2017’s gospel-infused Joy Comes Back – she offered a scathing indictment of politicians, covering Black Sabbath’s song War Pigs. How does all of this balance with an artist born and based in Texas, one of the most vocal states in the union when it comes to political dialogue?

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“I can tell you that I would probably never be invited to a party on the porch of our Governor’s house,” Foster jokes over the phone from his Austin home, “because he knows where I stand on politics. from Texas. So no, I won’t get that invite anytime and that’s fine with me. Austin happens to be one of the more liberal cities in the sea of ​​red and I’m okay with that.

Infusion of blues

Turns out covering War Pigs was “more of a musical choice.” She came to love Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, and other hard-rock bands when she was a helicopter electronics mate in the Navy in her twenties, just one of those little-known facts about Foster that make sometimes surface in his repertoire.

“I wondered what would happen if I turned it into a blues song, but I didn’t really think about what it was saying politically,” she says. “It was a musical experience more than anything.”

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Which isn’t to say that Foster ignores the state of the world. For much of the pandemic, she’s been focused on how our turbulent planet needs time to heal – the working title of a new album and song due out before the end of this year. Expect to hear a few numbers from this upcoming release when his quintet performs Sunday’s finale at this year’s Edmonton Blues Festival.

“I wrote a lot during the pandemic, writing about things I really wanted to say, and I wanted my band to be a part of that as well. I think Healing Time is a theme that comes out of all of this for everyone,” she says.

It was also a difficult time for Foster personally. A longtime relationship ended, leaving her single mother trying to restart her performance schedule. This past year has brought a gradual return to the road, and the role of music has never changed.

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“Music is even more important, just to remind people that it’s always been there,” Foster notes. “By doing a few streams I could see that people were just happy to feel the connection through music, that we’re not alone, we’re all going through this together. Art and music really bring that to the home.

beyond gender

The broad appeal of Foster’s versatile sound sees her regularly booked for blues, folk and jazz festivals. Genre labels mean little to the woman who gave up a contract with Atlantic Records early on because the company wanted to make her a pop singer. Since his 1997 debut Full Circle, Foster has released 12 albums featuring a range of roots, soul and jazz styles, earning four Grammy Award nominations and a handful of Blues Music Awards along the way.

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Joy Comes Back’s title track referenced the positive times that inevitably follow bad times, but the album’s gospel content also wrapped up memories of her childhood growing up in the hamlet of Gause, Texas, in a home that was rarely empty. of music. or sing. She joined the church choir at age 14, but Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Aretha Franklin were the key examples she began to look up to. Joining the Navy was a break from doing something different, but it only strengthened her motivation to make music once she joined the Navy big band. Foster studied jazz and later big band at music college.

That big band experience and love of making music for live audiences resurfaced in Live At The Paramount, recorded at one of Austin’s greatest old theaters just before the pandemic and released in 2020. It draws from a wonderful range of material from traditional songs like Death Comes A Knockin’ or Amazing Grace to cover Johnny Cash’s Ring Of Fire, or pay homage to jazz greats Ella Fitzgerald and Frank Sinatra, with an 18-piece ensemble behind it .

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“It’s all about energy, to capture that spirit of what’s happening live.”

Much like War Pigs, she loves putting an unexpected twist on old songs.

“I introduce these songs to people who wouldn’t even listen to country music, for example, doing Ring Of Fire like I arranged it. It’s really important to me as an artist.

Hall of Fame induction

Foster has been a regular visitor to the Edmonton area for most of her career and her visit to the Edmonton Blues Festival will include his induction into the Edmonton Blues Hall of Fame, Legends category. She can’t wait to reconnect with the public here after so long.

“As long as I have something to say, I’ll keep doing what I’m doing,” promises Foster.

Along with Foster and his guitar, the veteran quintet playing the festival includes guitarist Hadden Sayers, bassist Larry Fulcher, drummer Brennen Temple and Scottie Miller on keys.

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The beginnings of the Blues Festival

Despite Foster’s past history here, this is actually the first time the Edmonton Blues Festival has been able to book her.

“I think it’s a phenomenal way to end the festival,” says Blues Fest producer Cam Hayden. “She’s such an amazing performer, her music is so positive and heartfelt, her vibe is so great, she’s gonna knock us out of the park with a huge box of warm fuzzies.”

He is happy with how the festival is going, largely hassle-free so far, also benefiting from good ticket sales. A new development is a partnership with the Canadian Hard of Hearing Association to introduce special crystal clear sound for those who use hearing aids.

Hayden is also pleased to host a regular large-scale Blues Fest for the first time since 2019, featuring fellow first-time artists Crystal Shawanda and Toronzo Cannon, alongside established stars like Downchild Blues Band, CJ Chenier and Sue Foley.

And there’s movement on the horizon with the city closing Hawrelak Park for the next three summers. The producer can’t name it yet, but he’s got his sights set on a great site for next year.



Edmonton Blues Festival

With Ruthie Foster, Downchild Blues Band, CJ Chenier, Kat Danser and more

Where: Heritage Amphitheater, Hawrelak Park

When: August 19 (5 p.m.-10 p.m.), August 20 and 21 (2 p.m.-10 p.m.)

Tickets: Single-day tickets start at $60 and weekend passes start at $129 at bluesinternationalltd.com some tickets available on site.

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