It’s hard to describe the power of a Hurricane Ruth performance to someone who has not seen her.
The singer has an excellent catalogue of studio albums but it’s the live shows that reveal the extraordinary.
“Hurricane Ruth – Live at 3rd and Lindsley” meets the challenge. It’s like this. She’s all that.
‘It’s real. It’s raw,” Hurricane Ruth LaMaster told Tahoe Onstage. “It’s what you would hear if you went to a Hurricane Ruth show. There’s no edits. No overdubs. No second and third takes.”
St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame catcher Ted Simmons’ mantra to pitchers was to always make the first pitch a strike. When she takes the stage, astute baseball follower Hurricane Ruth has the same philosophy. Like her name says, she blows concertgoers away with the very first song.
“We came out of the gate throwing fastballs and swinging for the fence,” she said.
Released March 18, the album quickly hit the blues charts. There has been radio play for the first three songs, “Roll Little Sister,” “Hard Rockin’ Woman” and “What You Never Had.”
There is an old rock concert vibe to the album, except with enhanced audio quality. Listeners can hear crowd reactions, but it never interferes with the music. Kathy Mac was the front-of-house sound engineer for the Aug. 4, 2021 performance in Nashville. The album was mixed and mastered by Michael Saint-Leon and producer-drummer Tom Hambridge.
“Nick Nguyen played all the slide parts,” LaMaster said. “(Guitarist) Scott Holt is from the school of Buddy Guy. Now he’s with Foghat. (Keyboardist) Lewis Stephens performed with Muddy and Freddie King and is now on tour with Mike Zito. It was pretty inspiring. You have to bring your ‘A’ game to step onstage with all of those folks.”
Hambridge is one of the busiest and most in-demand producers in Nashville but he agreed upon the project with one phone call, the first LaMaster made after she and Gina Hughes of The Galaxie Agency decided to make a live album. Hughes brought famed Wet Willie frontman Jimmy Hall to the gig, as well as Stephens and Nguyen.
Hall suggested he and LaMaster sing a duet, “As the Years Go Passing By,” a Peppermint Harris song wrote in 1959 for Fenton Robinson. Hall plays harp on the next song, “Make Love to Me.”
Backstage, Hall asked bassist Calvin Johnson, “Does she come out hot like that every show?” Johnson replied, “You have no idea!”
Johnson and Hambridge set the groove to the album’s most soulful tune, “I’ve Got to Use My Imagination.”
“I’ve always loved Gladys Knight’s rawness and delivery of songs and I felt it was appropriate to honor her and do my own rendition of her great hit,” LaMaster said.
As she does with each of her shows, Hurricane Ruth concludes with a tribute to her mother with “Dance Dance Norma Jean.”
“She loved to dance, roller skate and drink cold Budweiser. She loved a good fistfight. She and my dad ran a tavern. She grew up in honky-tonks, I grew up in a honky-tonk. So, I guess it comes out that way in my music, too.”
An album release concert is planned for May 6 at B.B. King’s Blues Club in Memphis.
Coincidentally, Memphis is where this writer first saw Hurricane Ruth. Now that “Live at 3rd and Lindsley” has been released, it will be easier to explain the experience of a Hurricane Ruth show. Play this album and hold on to something tight. Hell yeah!