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Josephine Foster - Blood Rushing

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Artist: Josephine Foster

Album: Blood Rushing

Label: Fire

Review date: Jan. 14, 2013

With a title like Blood Rushing, one could be forgiven for expecting this latest album from acclaimed Colorado-born singer Josephine Foster to be a dark, mystical affair in the vein of A Wolf In Sheep’s Clothing, but the truth is quite the opposite. I don’t know if Foster is more relaxed, settled or satisfied than before, but Blood Rushing is a bright, cheerful and laid-back affair, and, to be honest, I can’t be sure if that’s a good thing or not.

More than anything, my surprise here is picture proof that expectations can be the mother of all idiocies, but in my defense, these were expectations borne from particular circumstances, as I first heard Foster trilling in German over the PA before a modern classical concert in an underground Berlin music venue. As such, with her distinctive, vibrato-driven voice, she is probably destined to be forever linked in my mind to a sort of parallel version of Germany where the Weimar republic never ended and liedsänger (German singers of traditional poems set to music) never went out of fashion but simply incorporated electric guitars to bolster their sound. It’s therefore no surprise that Blood Rushing should come as a surprise, but it’s certainly not a disappointment. In fact, it’s best viewed as a pretty enigma by an artist who has made the unusual and elusive her calling card.

It’s not hard to arrive at the conclusion that the cheerful disposition that inhabits Foster on Blood Rushing might be tied to geography and marriage. Though the album was recorded in America, she now lives with her guitarist husband Victor Herrero (who appears on the album) in Cadiz, Spain. Indeed, she recently declared in an interview that this change in home has led to her approaching music differently: “It’s a lot of fun to start from zero and learn. To come here and go, ‘well, what’s the important thing to learn.’ Like folk songs[...].” Hints of European, especially Spanish, music crop up at times throughout Blood Rushing: a touch of flamenco guitar here (“Sacred Is The Star”), arrangements evoking the soundtracks to Amelie or Pan’s Labyrinth there (“O Stars,” “Underwater Daughter”). Equally, it’s easy to trace back from some of these songs to the works of some of the luminaries of the 1960s British folk revival, from Anne Briggs to Sandy Denny via Roy Harper and Pentangle. Nothing on Blood Rushing is in any way derivative, with the influences subsumed into Foster’s visions, but they’re there, and it make listening to the album the aural equivalent of putting together a puzzle.

Equally, this is the closest I’ve ever heard Foster get to echoing her predecessors from the canon of American singer-songwriters. Some of the arrangements and sentiments on Blood Rushing bring to mind Joni Mitchell, David Crosby and Carole King, although no single influence is easily perceptible, bar perhaps Judee Sill. But that’s not to say Foster has suddenly gone all fuzzy and hippy. “Child of God” and “Sacred is the Star” are tiresome folky plodders like the worst of the above all mixed together in a blender, but the likes of “O Stars,” “Blood Rushing” and “Geyser” demonstrate that Foster’s talent for melody and love of the unpredictable remain as potent now as they did on, say, This Coming Gladness. “Geyser” is particularly satisfying, a gloomy Velvetian nightmare, all strident, noise-soaked guitars and driving percussion. Whatever the nature of the songs, whether delicate or pacy, Foster’s voice remains intoxicating, a timeless warble that floats across octaves and cadences with ease.

Blood Rushing is an odd cornucopia of sounds, styles and rhythms bound together by Foster’s singular voice and unwavering control, and such a surprise on first listen that I found it something of a grower. But trying to relate and compare it to her previous output, or any of the influences one can spot here, is like herding cats. Best to allow the album to take hold and let Foster take control (though I wouldn’t blame you for skipping “Child of God”). Even after repeated listens, I’m still not sure where that will take you, but I’m sure it will be somewhere beautiful and confusing.

By Joseph Burnett

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