Ruthie Foster Sings Odetta’s “Woke Up This Morning”

Here’s a clip of Austin Texas-born Ruthie Foster with her  take on “Woke Up This Morning”, a civil rights anthem if ever there was one.  The song was originally done by Odetta, a giant of the folk-singing, civil rights era.  Odetta seems to be one of many influences on Foster, who pulls in nearly every branch of American folk music into her performances, including jazz, blues, gospel, and soul. Foster has been on the scene for over ten years, with her debut album Full Circle coming out in 1997.

Ruthie Foster comes from a family of gospel singers. During a stint in the US Navy, Foster developed her skills as a performer and is currently a mainstay at roots music festivals all over North America.

Ruthie Foster is something of a link to the past, not just because of her connection with folk songs from another era, but in her rootsy and honest approach to the material whether original or not.  I got word of her through MOJO magazine (a tried and true method for me in finding new artists in any genre), where she was compared to Aretha Franklin.  And you can certainly hear the gospel intonations here, and a few of Aretha’s textures too.

Usually when an artist is compared to the giants in the field, it spells disappointment.  Yet, with this cover version, you can feel that Foster is really connected, really passionate, about what she’s singing about.  I don’t get the feeling that she’s self-conscious in terms of the influences attributed to her.  And this may be her saving grace, besides her obviously powerful voice.

She is currently on tour, booked well into 2009 and appearing with established artists such as Eric Bibb, Robben Ford, and the Blind Boys of Alabama.  Her most recent album, The Phenomenal Ruthie Foster is out now.

And for a further sampling of her music, check out