Bradenton Blues Festival headliner Ruthie Foster: 'I can always say I'm Grammy nominated': interview

wtatangelo@bradenton.comNovember 29, 2012 

Singer-songwriter Ruthie Foster has drawn comparisons to soul queen Aretha Franklin and jazz great Ella Fitzgerald.

She has recorded alongside gospel legends Blind Boys of Alabama and recently toured with folk-punk icon Ani DiFranco.

So what kind of music does Foster, who headlines the Bradenton Blues Festival on Saturday, play?

"Blues with gospel-infused soul," she says by phone from her home studio in Austin, Texas. "And gospel-infused folk."

Foster, who also dabbles in country, rock and funk, has been releasing albums and touring for more than a decade. But she didn't became a full-fledged star in the blues world until "The Truth According to Ruthie Foster" came out in 2009.

A powerhouse collection of timeless original and judiciously chosen covers, it earned a Grammy nomination for Best Contemporary Blues Album.

"It's incredibly validating," Foster said of being invited to the music industry's most prestigious party. "There you are in the same room with people like Roberta Flack and Stevie Nicks."

Foster added, "If it never happens again, I can always say I'm Grammy nominated and no can take that from me."

Or the fact that she had a run-in with the "Jersey Shore" girl.

"Snooki was in the bathroom fixing her hair," Foster said with a laugh of her most surreal Grammy encounter. "Snooki? Why is she here? You run into everybody. I was so overwhelmed."

On "Let it Burn," the follow-up to "The Truth According to Ruthie Foster," the singer manages to personalize songs made famous by artists ranging from country legend Johnny Cash ("Ring of Fire") to contemporary rock heroes the Black Keys ("Everlasting Light").

All 13 tracks are terrific, but the most potent is probably Foster's fiery, stripped-down reading of the Adele smash "Set Fire to the Rain."

"I love the way Adele writes and think she is a righteous singer," Foster said. "I have all the respect in the world for her realness and it's nice to see someone so popular who is themselves."

Yes, Foster will probably play "Set Fire to the Rain" during her closing set at the Bradenton Blues Festival.

"I'm really pleased to watch young people's faces when I sing it," she said. "I even had one guy my age put his phone up to record the song and send it to his daughter so he could say, 'See, I listen to cool people!'"

Wade Tatangelo, features writer/columnist, can be reached at 941-745-7057.Follow

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