I first encountered Hurricane Ruth thanks to a four-song EP I received around the beginning of 2016. If you feel so inclined, you can see what I thought about it here. I thought Ruth was a major talent then, and nothing has come along to change my opinion.
Now we are blessed with a full-fledged album, Ain’t Ready For The Grave, that is being released on her own Hurricane Ruth label, and if you are reading this prior to March 2017, just go ahead and preorder it. If it’s after then, by all means, pounce on it!
The Hurricane herself has teamed up with the amazing Tom Hambridge, who seems to be able to do all things blues related. He’s a songwriter, a musician, a producer, and if what I hear is correct, he makes the coffee in the morning and sweeps up at night. Any project would be made better as a result of his efforts, and if you have a talent like the Hurricane’s, well, so much the better.
While Hurricane Ruth LaMaster tackles the vocals and Hambridge the drums, they are joined by Reese Wynans on B3 and keys; Michael Rhodes on bass; and Pat Buchanan and Rob McNelley on guitars. Background vocals are provided by the wonderful McCrary Sisters and Wendy Moten.
LaMaster and Hambridge teamed up on most of the songwriting, with one or the other writing or co-writing all but one of the songs on the twelve-song CD.
The album announces itself with the fun hard driving ode to honkytonks, Barrelhouse Joe’s. It’s a quick song and sets the mood for the entire album. You don’t get a name like Hurricane by being shy out of the gate, and she’s come out rocking!
She keeps the beat going with the follow up, Hard Rockin’ Woman. This is an autobiographical song that gives us a glimpse of what she’s like behind the stage persona. Here’s a hint; it’s not much different! Love this song. And remember to turn it up, you can’t play it too loud…
The next song, Far From The Cradle, starts off slow and easy with some great guitar picking to set the mood. It’s got a swampy country feel and is a real change from the previous couple of songs. Her voice is still strong and has that edge, but it’s a comforting song and while this is not the title track, the title of the album does come from this song. Very strong and powerful.
LaMaster picks up the tempo again on Estilene, a warning song for her friend to “leave them married men alone.” We get a little more of Estilene’s back story in the song and the message is delivered in no uncertain terms. Will she ever learn? The next song, Beekeeper, continues whit the fast paced tempo, and it has some clever lyrics to go along with the driving beat. Listen for that B3 break!
My Heart Aches For You starts out as a traditional torch song ballad and the song is beautiful. The song is jazz tinged and the band has the feel of a small combo that lets her vocals soar over them. It’s a wonderful number and even at 6:34 in length, should be getting some extended air play.
The Hurricane gets funky on Cheating Blues. The band is channeling Isaac Hayes and LaMaster is tearing it up. This is a woman who has had it gentlemen, and you better not cross that line. She’s on to you, time to get to stepping before she does something evil.
What’s an AC/DC song doing on a blues album? Remember, that while Hurricane Ruth is best known for her blues, she’s got abilities in a number of different genres. True to her roots however, Whole Lotta Rosie, takes on a very bluesy feel with her interpretation.
After that driving number, it’s time to shift gears into something that’s slower, darker, a little swampier; and she does just that on For A Change. She uses a lot of traditional blues images and the musical arrangement is stellar. Love this one so much.
She and the band pick up the energy a bit on Let Me Be The One. This one has a little more country feel, if you drop the B3 and add a pedal steel, this would be right at home on any country station in the country. We all know that country and blues are fairly close cousins and it is songs like this that remind us of that fact in a fun way. It’s got plenty of blues in it though to keep even the toughest critic satisfied.
We’ve got some good rocking going on with Good Stuff. She’s unleashing some serious soul to go along with the STAX sound from the band. This song features the McCrary Sisters singing back up and they add a nice touch to the number.
The album comes to a close with Yes I Know, a gospel blues number that reaches deep into LaMaster’s soul. Sometimes we all just need that spiritual side to help us make it through the night. She picks it up in the manner of some of the great gospel numbers. Soul comes in many forms, and for my money this is one of the best!
It’s safe to say that I loved this album, and plan on playing several tracks on Time For The Blues. In fact, I can’t wait to play them. Hurricane Ruth straddles so many different genres of music and handles them all so well. I would be happy with albums that touched solely on country, rhythm and blues, soul, gospel, funk, and of course blues, but by mixing them all onto one disc, it makes me very happy.
If you haven’t listened to her before, what are you waiting for? Get yourself over to https://hurricaneruth.com/ and sample some of her music and then pick up this album. You’re going to like it a lot.