Hurricane Ruth levitates, ‘Ain’t Ready for the Grave’

Tim Parsons / Tahoe Onstage

Hurricane Ruth in Memphis onstage at the Purple Haze Nightclub during a Blind Raccoon showcase during the 2015 International Blues Challenge.
Tim Parsons / Tahoe Onstage

Here’s an unmistakable blues name: Hurricane Ruth. When she sings, she blows the room away.

The delivery with each note has such intensity and authenticity that rapt and windswept audiences hold onto bar stools to remain in place. She stands just 5-feet tall, but Hurricane Ruth has a Goliath stage presence. Anybody who sees her perform doesn’t forget it.

How does this whirlwind translate on a studio recording? Like the sound of a blues monsoon on “Ain’t Ready for the Grave,” which will be released on March 10.

A resident of Glen Carbon in Central Illinois, Hurricane Ruth LaMaster has performed since 1979 alongside numerous jazz and blues legends, including Willie Dixon, who told her, “You are the only hurricane I can appreciate.”

Hurricane Ruth

“Ain’t Ready for the Grave” will be released on March 10.

For her fourth album, Hurricane Ruth teamed up with Tom Hambridge, the red-hot blues and country music producer who Buddy Guy calls “The white Willie Dixon.” Hambridge co-wrote and performed, along with a studio filled with Nashville stars.

“Well, it’s Friday night, let the good times roll,” Ruth blasts with gale force on the opening track. With 50-cent schooners of beer, “Barrelhouse Joe’s” is a place not unlike the Glendale Tavern in Beardstown, Illinois, on the road between Chicago and St. Louis. Ruth dedicated the album to the proprietor, her father, Milt LaMaster. The Glendale hosted Sunday blues, jazz and country jams, and Ruth can remember when she was 3 years old and kept time on a cymbal during afternoon shows.

Producer Hambridge earned two Grammys when he collaborated with Buddy Guy on autobiographical songs, and the same formula is employed on Hurricane Ruth album, such as the second and third tracks, “Hard Rockin’ Woman,” and “Far From The Cradle.” Downhome and slow blues tunes follow, along with a gospel song, “Good Stuff,” upon which Hurricane Ruth is accompanied by the McCrary Sisters. The sisters are among an impressive litany of female artists who have been produced by Hambridge, including Susan Tedeschi, Shemekia Copeland and Marcia Ball.

The one aberration is an AC/DC cover from 1977, “Whole Lot of Rosie.” Hurricane Ruth often is called upon to play rock shows, and she has opened for Judas Priest, Heart and Joan Jett. So along with soulful blues and jazz, she’s also a rocker. As is her bent, Hurricane Ruth holds nothing back, and several decades after the Australian band made the song, listeners can now understand the lyrics.

For music lovers who have never had the pleasure of experiencing Hurricane Ruth live, “Ain’t Ready for the Grave” will make them feel like they have.

  • Hurricane Ruth
    ‘Ain’t Ready for the Grave’
    Release: March 10, 2017
    Label: Hurricane Ruth Records
    Standout tracks: ‘My Heart Aches For You,’ ‘Far From The Cradle’

About Tim Parsons

Tim Parsons is the editor of Tahoe Onstage who first moved to Lake Tahoe in 1992. Before starting Tahoe Onstage in 2013, he worked for 29 years at newspapers, including the Tahoe Daily Tribune, Eureka Times-Standard and Contra Costa Times. He was the recipient of the 2011 Keeping the Blues Alive award for Journalism.

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