Multiple Grammy nominee Ruthie Foster takes the listener to church with her new LP, Healing Time, her first studio album since 2017. The soulful, liberating album takes the listener on a journey of joy, her gospel roots present on all the tracks.
Mark Howard (Willie Nelson, Lucinda Williams) and Daniel Barrett both produced the album, taking Foster in some unique creative directions, as Barrett invited several members of The Black Pumas into the mix while recording the album at Black Puma Adrian Quesada’s Electric Deluxe studio in Austin. Legendary background singer Glenn Fukunaga (The Chicks, Shawn Colvin) also joined in on the fun. The album was also recorded at Esplanade Studios in New Orleans, Blue Rock Artist Ranch & Studio in Wimberley, Texas and Studio 71 West in Austin.
Healing Time kicks off with the hopeful, Motown-influenced “Soul Searching” that elevates your mood instantly despite lyrics that speak just as much about hardships as they do overcoming them. That’s the beauty of Foster’s album: it lifts you up even when she’s crooning away her pain with powerful vocals reminiscent of Mavis Staples. Anders Osbourne shines on slide here, adding some New Orleans flavor.
The album goes in many directions. “I Was Called” has a traditional gospel feel with a more contemporary, gritty production quality. There’s a choir behind her here, elevating the impact of the song’s redemptive nature. It reminds me of The Blind Boys of Alabama, especially with the stripped-down yet impactful keys of Frank LoCrasto and Scottie Miller.
From here, Foster takes the listener to “Paradise,” which has a little more of a 90s pop feel. Like the other 11 songs on the album, it’s healing (yes, this album certainly lives up to its name). The album as a whole provides the same kind of soul enrichment offered by a church service or – if that’s not your thing – a yoga session, or however you get your spiritual nourishment.
Healing Time is also undeniably catchy. On “Don’t Want to Give Up On You” Foster sounds more like Diana Ross. She has a sweetness about her here, starting off a little softer, but her voice gets stronger and stronger, as does her conviction. This tune also embodies Motown, channeling Marvin Gaye’s I Want You album. Daryl Johnson’s tasteful, groovy bass line and LoCrasto’s keys really make the track stand out even more.
There are so many feel-good tracks here. “Love is the Answer” has a happy-go-gospel Keb’ Mo’ vibe that makes the listener feel better. It’s a testament to how wonderful it is to surrender to love. It’s blues, but there’s nothing to be blue about.
Healing Time is also tremendously timely, sharing not just a healing gospel track but a call to action with “Feels Like Freedom,” the most hopeful song yet, and one with contagious optimism. Foster asks the listener to join her on this journey of hope: “are you ready now? Yes, I’m ready now, for a change to come. Feet, don’t fail me now, ‘cause I’m ready now to move on.” Earl Smith is featured on background vocals.
The album closes with “4 a.m.,” a surprisingly mellow, more acoustic track (featuring Foster and Duke Levine on guitar) that seems more influenced by Bonnie Raitt and Emmylou Harris. The gorgeous tune puts the listener at ease. It’s like a nightcap, or a show encore that emphasizes tranquility. It leaves you feeling that everything’s alright, which is what Healing Time is all about. We’ve all had struggles these last few years, but we can get through them, and Foster’s latest album serves as an excellent guide to get through.
All songs were co-written by Foster except “Love is the Answer” and “Feels Like Freedom.”
Healing Time is available at Foster’s website Nov. 18, via Blue Corn Music.
Enjoy our previous coverage here: Interview: Ruthie Foster Talks About Her New Album, American Music, And Living In These Crazy Times