Whilst it would be a slight exaggeration – as a critic of some 15 or so years standing – to say that it’s an occupational curse being exposed to too much music before it hits the stores, the fact that music is so readily accessible 24/7 and the fact that it’s almost too easy to release it in one form or another means that focusing time and attention on just one new release is harder than ever. This a situation that almost unfairly prevented this album from Josephine Foster reaching the top of this writer’s ‘to review’ pile. Although given to this scribe by the irrepressibly enthusiastic Fire Records a good few weeks ago it moved to the bottom of the promo CD stack until some well-timed memory-jogging airplay on Cerys Matthews’ 6Music radio show exposed the errors in this listener’s review filtration system.
With Blood Rushing elevated in said pile for a fresh airing it has revealed itself as a record of near-uncorrupted earthiness, melodic warmth and stealthy beauty that should by rights put Foster more visibly on the multi-cultured Americana map. Not that it is a straightforward folk-slanted singer-songstress affair. With her formative operatic training, her teenage years as a wedding/funeral singer and her past dalliances with concept albums (such as 2010’s Graphic As Star, which interpreted the work of American poet Emily Dickenson) as well as psychedelic-rock (with The Supposed for 2004’s All The Leaves Are Gone), Foster doesn’t approach things in a straightforward fashion anyway. Yet although Blood Rushing is not an obvious record it is possibly Foster’s most approachable collection to date; one which distils much of her convoluted past into an accessible welcoming present, albeit without conformist compromise.
Beautifully recorded by Alabama Shakes producer Andrija Tokic in the unconventional environs of Cherryvale Art Farm in Boulder, Blood Rushing has a wonderfully unvarnished yet professional aesthetic that lets Foster and her multi-instrumentalist ensemble – which includes her Spanish partner and collaborator Victor Herrero – colour the songs with a palette that is diverse yet not overly-rich.
Thus the opening lilt of “Waterfall” invites us in with a laidback strum-along before the more widescreen drama of the Morricone-shaded “Panorama Wide” gives Foster’s soprano room to roam free-range. A little later in proceedings with “Child Of God” her band supply a slowed-down unplugged Velvet Underground groove and add empathetic backing vocals to gorgeous uplifting effect. With the mid-point placed title-track, things are stripped-down to a more minimalistic backdrop ahead of being built up again with jazz-slanted guitars and stirring violins. For “The Wave Of Love” things are stripped-back again to largely just Foster’s vocals and strings before a more sprightly setting is given to the soaring “O Stars.” In its wake comes the only misfire of the album with the near-atonal “Geyser,” which feels like an early PJ Harvey demo that’s become uncomfortably warped by age. Thankfully the record’s finale soon after, in the form of the exquisite shimmering “Words Come Loose” – replete with radiant call and response vocals – more than makes up for the minor misdemeanour.
Although Josephine Foster may remain an acquired taste to some, the blossoming Blood Rushing is definitely an album that repeatedly rewards a little patience for the previously unconvinced. Moreover, fans of Joan Baez and Tarnation’s Paula Frazer should certainly seek this out immediately. All told, this is undoubtedly one of 2012’s most unexpected pleasures.
Listen to “Blood Rushing” by Josephine Foster at Soundcloud.