Review by George Dayton, WTJU Folk Librarian
Rita Hosking, a country folk artist from California, has just released her fourth album, Burn. Her third, Come Sunrise, won best county album in the 2010 in the Independent Music Awards, and this one should be received as well as Come Sunrise was.
California isn’t noted for music inspired by rural traditions, but Rita grew up in rural Shasta County in the north, which is surrounded by mountains, and absorbed mountain music from her life there. Her songwriting is tight; spare verses and a few well chosen words suggesting more than she says. She has a knack for projecting herself into her characters and writing from those varied points of view (e.g. the child of a miner who loves her father or an 80 year old woman looking back on what she has learned). In Dishes, the everyday task of washing them becomes a meditation on life: the tasks done to sustain it, what gives it meaning and its fragility. She also writes of broader themes – the lost way of life of Native Americans in Indian Giver, and her perspective on the difference between Abraham and Jesus in My Golden Bull, with Gaia noted in the chorus. While she can infuse small details with larger meaning, she can also make what seems large personal. For example, in Ballad for the Gulf of Mexico, the Gulf was not polluted, it was murdered.
Rita’s vocal style is also informed by rural musical traditions. Those who enjoy Appalachian mountain music won’t find western mountain music all that different. Her vocals move from soft to intense, often in the same verse, building and receding, which holds listener interest. She sings her lyrics as though she means it, and she does. The band includes veteran bassist Glenn Fukunaga and guitarist Rich Brotherton, who has worked with Robert Earl Keen and Caroline Herring. Brotherton, also produced this album and wisely chose for the music to complement Rita’s vocals rather than overshadow them.
Bottom line: This is a fine release from an exceptional songwriter, and she will be in our area on November 11 to perform at The Mockingbird in Staunton. She is worth the trip.