RUTHIE FOSTER is a Texas-born singer/songwriter with a clutch of acclaimed genre-crossing albums to her name and her latest long player, ‘Healing Time’ has just won release and  the 12 tracker offers plenty of soulful gems, though it’s not a soul album per se. You see Ms Foster’s work defies categorization. She’s won numerous blues awards but she’s not really a blues singer. There’s a folksy feel to much of her music and gospel sensitivities are clearly there too. Whatever, Ruthie Foster crafts proper, grown-up music – music with a message and meaning and always delivered with a soulful conviction.

Catch those flavours and more on ‘Healing Times’  title track. It’s big and brash and references not only to the trials many have faced over the last several years but also the healing, soothing power of committed music.  The message is more intimate on ‘Don’t Want To Give Up On You’. This is a gentle, simple, building soul groove that in places reminds me of Smokey’s ‘Being With You’  but that’s no bad thing. It’s one of the album’s highlights and little wonder it’s been chosen as the album’s lead-off track. It’s quite gorgeous.

The opening cut, ‘Soul Searching’ has an old school  soul vibe too while ‘For You’ is the big emotion-tugging ballad. Elsewhere, ‘What Kind Of Fool’ and ‘Finish Line’ show why Ms Foster is a multiple blues award winner. ‘Freedom’ is this album’s nod to gospel, the sombre ‘I Was Called’ recalls the struggle for Civil Rights while the closing ‘4AM’ is a delicate , folk  offering.

We’ve said that Healing Time’ isn’t a soul album. It’s a lot more and might  remind soul vets of the genius of dear Terry Callier. More contemporary references might pitch Ms Foster’s work somewhere between Bonnie Rait and Aretha.