Ain't Ready For The Grave
Hurricane Ruth Records
Ruth LeMaster earned her name because of her huge voice in a small package and her publicity characterizes her as rooted in traditional blues but someone who can rock the house. This is her fourth album and was produced by Tom Hambridge who plays drums on this who with LeMaster contributed most of the 12 songs here. Others playing on this include Reese Wynans on keyboards, Michael Rhodes on bass and guitarists Pat Buchanan and Rob McNelly.
The album opens with a bluesy salute to a Friday Night at a juke, "Barrelhouse Joe's," followed by the hard rock-blues of "Hard Rockin' Woman," with a bit of shouting set against a southern rock setting. "Far From the Cradle," features atmospheric slide guitar at the opening backing her vocal before Wynans adds some piano as she notes "we are from the cradle but we ain't ready for the grave," as the rest of the band joins in for understated backing of her vocal and the Muddy Waters' influenced slide playing.
She is a good singer with solid phrasing, tone and pitch although occasionally takes things a bit to rock-ish for these ears. But on the driving "Estilene," about a woman who should leave that married man alone, or the amusing double-entendre of "Beekeeper," she delivers the lyrics with a sense of warning and humor. She stands out on the straight slow blues, "My Heart Aches For You," followed by the funky groove of "Cheating Blues," as she recalls making love and had a good thing going, rocking this man all night until she found out about him blinding her with lies.
There is a (forgettable to these ears) a hard rock cover of AC/DC's "Whole Lot of Rosie," the atmospheric "For a Change" with Ruth singing about his midnight mover and crawling king snake, but if he wants Ruth, she asks (in a most sultry manner) if he wants to be treated right for a change. A cover of Hambridge's "Let Me Be The One" (written for Susan Tedeschi)" is a fine shuffle performance with a heartfelt, relaxed vocal. The McCrary Sisters add backing vocal for the soul-rocker "Good Stuff," and the closing gospel song of praise, " Yes I Know." It ends a tightly produced, solidly performed collection of blues and rock that displays Hurricane Ruth as a powerful and expressive vocalist.
I received my review copy from a publicist. This review originally appeared in the May-June 2017 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 372). Here is a video associated with the album