Ruthie Foster understands that we may be going through difficult times as a society and individuals. But God is good. Times have always been tough. The Lord is always with us and gives us strength. Praise the Lord. On this record, Foster sings that she has been called to spread the message. She mixes her native Texas blues, New Orleans rhythm and blues, black gospel, and singer-songwriter tropes in her preaching. Her music combines various styles to tell us that we are all God’s children. We all matter.
Foster knows that she doesn’t need a pulpit to offer a sermon. You can do it with roses, with love, or like the singer, with a song. She’s aware of real concerns. Children go without clean water. Corporate greed stands on the backs of the poor, and so on. The answer to these problems isn’t political or economic. All Foster asks is for a little bit of faith. “Love Is the Answer”, she tells her listeners in simple terms. That may not be so different from what the Beatles sang all those years ago. However, this is more conventionally religious and has roots in church hymns and psalms.
The singer will take you to “Paradise”, or maybe it’s more accurate to say she’ll show you that you are already there. She might not be able to convince a skeptic, but it’s not for lack of trying or the sincerity of her effort. Foster passionately tells one her mission and that she will not give up on YOU. She sometimes directly tells the listener directly that she won’t be satisfied or give up until one accepts her help but leaves the lyrics ambiguous. Is it the love for another, self-love, or love of God, or both that she’s preaching? The answer can be all three. Love is inclusive by definition.
Foster knows her words are insufficient to resolve her aching heart and lost soul. On the eloquent “4 am” she sings of late-night insomnia and the pain of being alone. Foster knows that we need other people to be whole. She celebrates her search for connection and reminds us that we all need each other. She offers her voice as solace. The 12 tracks on Healing Time are her way of reaching out.
The spirituality of several of the dozen cuts on this release may alienate some listeners. Foster may believe the truth will set one free, but what that means to an apostate may have the opposite of the intended effect. She’s not unaware of this. Foster questions herself, her motives, and her expectations. She asks, “What Kind of Fool” is she for believing, but it’s clear that she deems she is a holy fool. Perhaps that’s more of a mixed message than Foster wants to convey. After all, if she’s a fool and we listen to her, what are we?
Foster has a powerful and supple voice and sings with feeling and purpose. She sings to the choir as well as with them on Healing Time. The desire for personal love, secular community, and religious redemption make for a powerful package.