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Little Boat

The first time I heard Rita Hosking, I was enamored with her approach to music. She had this backwoods mountain tone to her voice and in fact sang a few what I would consider mountain songs. Songs not quite country and not quite vocal bluegrass and not quite folk. Songs which were as much subject matter as music.

Hosking is of miner's stock and is quite proud of it. She even went so far as to record an EP in a mine (Live in the 16 to 1 Mine), glorying in the acoustics and the history with songs like Miner's Lullaby and Dream of a Miner's Child spliced between her own. When I hear her sing those, I can almost see the coal dust settling on her guitar and her clothes and face and in her lungs. There is a lot of attention given to the Dust Bowl lately and a lot less to mining, both similar in so many ways.

And there is more. With Hosking, there is always more. She found out and wrote about Josephine Monahan, a cattle ?man?, a cowboy known as Little Joe whose secret was hers until her death. She sings of alone as if she were alone, but she is not, having a family she loves dearly, but you wouldn't know it when her voice hits the high notes on She's Waiting (from the Come Sunrise album). She hits those notes sparingly but when she does, they send a chill down my spine. Like on Coyote (from Burn), her voice a true lament thanks to husband Sean Feder's harmonies underlying Hosking's high lonesome tone. When I hear songs like this, I cry on the inside and if I'm drinking enough, a bit on the outside as well.

So I suppose it's no surprise that I'm enamored by Hosking's latest, Little Boat. I'm certainly not surprised. But I am surprised at Hosking's not reaching for the roots on this album. There is neither mountain music nor intense leaning to backwoods or country here. What there is is a consistency, front to back--- excellent songs presented at their simplistic best. This is as close to folk as I've ever heard Hosking, the songs themselves overriding subject matter. Good songs and solid. Indeed, if I were asked to pick a starter album, this would be the one. It's a beauty.

Hosking headed back to Austin for this one, her third project with Rich Brotherton at Ace Recording Studios. It was a don't-fix-something-that-ain't-broke kind of thing, I think. The other two albums she recorded with Brotherton, Come Sunrise and Burn, had a certain feel and sound that I certainly understood and I think she did too. I heard those albums and they just felt right, you know? As does Little Boat. I won't go so far as to say that Hosking keeps getting better because she was so damn good the first time I heard her, I thought there was no better to be gotten. But this album sure as hell is what I expect anymore--- quality-plus. She's recording herself into a corner. Oh, the pressure.....

The pressure was alleviated this time by not only the Brothertons (Rich's wife Kathy sat in on accordion and Rich--- well, he plays everything but the kitchen sink when he wants to), but by husband Sean Feder, who accompanies Hosking in her band, Cousin Jack, and also by daughter Kora Feder, who has a lot of her Momma in her voice and ain't too shabby on the banjo, neither.

Those who don't know Rita Hosking, start here. Then go back and check out the others. And I have no doubt that many of you will.

Frank O. Gutch Jr.

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