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Hurricane Ruth 'Ain't Ready For The Grave'

"Hurricane" Ruth LeMaster

"Hard Rockin’ Woman" is the second song on “Hurricane” Ruth LeMaster’s latest album “Ain’t Ready for the Grave.” It’s an apt description for the Beardstown native.

Driving 85 with my hair on fire/a couple hundred miles to go/when I get to Louisiana late at night/the folks are going to get a show/I'm a hard rockin' woman - from "Hard Rockin' Woman" by Hurricane Ruth

“How did hard rock enter my bloodstream?” asked LeMaster. “Just like many of us, I grew up listening to (Janis) Joplin, Cream, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, and then just going back and finding out what these individuals were listening to and doing what I call 'jumping off points.'"

For example, Joplin led her to Big Mama Thornton and Bessie Smith. She learned about Willie Dixon through Led Zeppelin, and Muddy Waters through The Rolling Stones.

“I think (sticking with her hard rocking sound) has a lot to do with my personality,” said LeMaster. “I’m a true believer in moving music forward by honoring the past. I’m a very physical person, I love working out and being outdoors. I draw a lot of music from the outdoors.”


The album’s name comes from the album’s third track “Far From the Cradle.”

Let's live it up now babe/don't wait for judgement day/you know we're far from the cradle/but we ain't ready for the grave - from "Far From The Cradle" from Hurricane Ruth

Is that a declaration?

“The title just kind of rolled off our tongues when talking with my executive producer Jeanne Hughes, and my main producer, drummer, and co-writer Tom Hambridge,” said LeMaster. “We all decided we really liked that. We actually wanted to try to get people to dig to find out where the album title comes from.”

On her 2014 album “Born on the River,” LeMaster documents some of the Beardstown characters she knew and/or learned about through her parents growing up on the Illinois River town. She said “Barrelhouse Joe” on her latest album wasn’t a continuation of those characters, but it does reference the historic juke-joints of river towns including Beardstown.

“Barrelhouse Joe’s was a fun kind of thing,” said LeMaster. “Like the Friday nights when you’re working hard all week and you want to let off a little steam and you know this little place down by the river. The 50 cent schooners of beer is a reference from my mom … that’s what my mom and dad sold their schooners of beer for at the old Glendale Tavern in Beardstown.”

LeMaster now calls the St. Louis area her home. She lives just east of the city in the Edwardsville/Glen Carbon area on the Illinois side of the Missouri River.

On the morning she was speaking with GLT, protests over the acquittal of a former white police officer in the shooting of a black man were roiling St. Louis. LeMaster said the tension between races and between law enforcement and the public were concerning her. She said both sides need to show more respect for the other, but also thought music could be a bridge.

“I think as songwriters and musicians, we can help mend fences,” said LeMaster. “Music has always done that. If you go back to the civil unrest of the 1960s, 70s, and even the early 1980s, music is what brought people together. I think blues, because of its storytelling, could bring people together.”

LeMaster characterized the current tension in St. Louis as a “powder keg waiting to explode.”

“There’s a lot of underlying things, distrust, and disrespect on both sides. I’m really hoping that through music, perhaps we can bring people together and open the lines of communication,” said LeMaster.  

"Hurricane" Ruth LeMaster appears at the "Third Base Sports Bar" in Springfield, Illinois, on Sept. 22.  She'll play "The Shed" in Saybrook on Sept. 23.

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Jon Norton is the audio director at WGLT and WCBU. He also is host of All Things Considered every weekday.