This album took a good, long while to make its way to me, but I am awful glad it did.
Hurricane Ruth LeMaster has been making music most of her life.
Based out of St. Louis, I believe, Hurricane Ruth doesn’t mess around. I get the feeling she doesn’t have time to truck with too much subtlety, personally or musically. Watching a few live clips, she just lays it out on the stage, take her or leave her. Based on Good Life, I’m taking her.
Rockin’ blues come exploding from the speakers from the first track “Like Wildfire.” As LeMaster sang on her previous release, “far from the cradle, but we ain’t ready for the grave.” She keeps that theme going across Good Life’s ten tracks, slowing down only when the content of the song calls for introspection. One such song is the title track, based around a conversation she had with her mother a year before she passed. While such a song could be maudlin, that isn’t the case here: again, Hurricane Ruth just lays out the truth over a restrained, funky beat. Based on the evidence, LeMaster followed her mother’s path long before the recording of this song.
One is tempted to write that Hurricane Ruth sings “like wildfire, burning out of control,” but that would be unfair to the distinction she displays in her vocal performances. LeMaster co-wrote eight of these songs, and several are outstanding. “What You Never Had” again comes from the wisdom of her mother, and “Black Sheep” rumbles with fervor, pride, and self-realization. “She’s Golden” was written for 2020. The energetic combo of “Dirty Blues” and “Late Night Red Wine” tell tales of carousing.
The album concludes with the powerful “I Got Your Back,” co-written by Karen Leipziger, Freda McCrary, and Irene Kelley, and man, does it burn. An inspirational number certainly, the song has strength, and Hurricane Ruth’s powerful interpretation is inspiring.
Wisely, LeMaster works with a core four-piece band on Good Life. The consistency is appreciated, and the musicians are as committed to their vocalist and these songs as they are to their own craft. Scott Holt (guitar, and co-writer of “Black Sheep”) is ideal accompaniment to LeMaster, and Bruce Katz’ Hammond B3 and other keys are much appreciated. The rhythm section of Calvin Johnson (bass) and Tony Braunagel (drums) is a powerhouse.
Great stuff. A bit of blues, a lotta rock. Hurricane Ruth is just what we need this week. None of this streaming shit, give her a spin—buy Good Life.