By Mike O’Cull
Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter and roots music giant Ruthie Foster chronicles the emotional extremes of human life and the essence of what it means on her stunning new full-length release Healing Time.
The new set drops November 18th, 2022 thanks to Blue Corn Music and is the ninth studio effort of Foster’s 25-year career. This time out, she pushes her considerable vocal and songwriting talents beyond all previous boundaries to deliver a live-sounding batch of new music that communicates directly with the hearts of her listeners in a more profound way than ever before. “With this album, I dug deep and tried to go for the best way to write,” Ruthie explains. “This album says a lot about the period we were making it in, and how I wanted to find my way out of it.”
Foster worked with distinguished producers Mark Howard (Willie Nelson, Lucinda Williams) and Dan Barrett on the project and tracked it with her rock-solid road band. Pedal steel ace Robert Randolph and slide guitar monster Sonny Landreth also stopped by for guest appearances. Glenn Fukunaga (The Chicks, Shawn Colvin) and other top players from the Austin scene completed the ensemble.
Songwriting was a collaborative situation with previous Foster collaborators Gary Nicholson (Buddy Guy, Taj Mahal) and Grace Pettis, as well as every member of her band. Stylistically, Healing Time vibes like the classic soul sides from Foster’s record collection and creates the same kind of magic the old stars dispensed so easily.
All of this adds up to an album that gives off an overwhelming feeling of love and freedom. Foster has one of the best voices in American music today and she uses it as a healing tonic for our struggling world. Fans have always found healing qualities in Ruthie’s music but this new song cycle operates on a fresh, higher level. Her tones, lyrics, and ideas seem designed to comfort all of the displaced souls of the last few years. In many ways, this is the record that many of us need to hear right now.
Foster opens the set with the irresistible and bittersweet “Soul Searching.” It’s a brilliant song about no longer getting what you need from a relationship and watching the changes happen in real time. Foster’s gift is making people feel the same things she is and she uses it exquisitely here. From her first line of lyrics, she will split your heart wide open and spill out the pain and acceptance needed for life to go on. The musicians behind her are just as powerful and spin up a vibration that comes straight from those old records you’ll never stop listening to.
The atmospheric “Lie Your Way To The Truth” is another emotional ocean that hits like an old-school gem. It’s an all-too-familiar tale of deception in love and the need to walk away. Foster sees through the illusions that have been perpetrated on her with an intense melancholy in her voice that only comes from many lessons learned.
“I Was Called” is one of several songs here with a gospel heart. Ruthie excels at this kind of inspirational material and she testifies on it for all she’s worth. When she leans into her belt in the chorus and soars, she goes where few can follow. The gospel choir singing with her is also stellar and will make you believe. The song shifts from a tense, minor key verse to a righteous, major key refrain that feels like a ray of sun breaking through storm clouds. Make sure you get up close so you can let it touch you.
Foster’s title cut “Healing Time” is an upbeat, encouraging song about what many folks have been through in recent times and the necessary roles that artists play in gluing spirits back together. Robert Randolph rocks his steel guitar on it like a boss and makes a wonderful foil to Foster’s epic voice.
Healing Time is transcendent from end to end and may well be Foster’s finest record yet. There’s a sense of purpose that comes through these songs that can’t be denied. Foster seems to feel that the best thing she can do for all of us right now is to sing us back to life and she’s absolutely correct. If you are dragging through endless lost and broken days, spin this and let Ruthie lead you to the light.
Pre-order Healing Time Here
“Feels Like Freedom”