Thursday, September 16, 2010
Rita Hosking has always wanted to go down into a mine and perform. Her great grandfather, a Cornish immigrant, often sang in the deep dark tunnels while he worked in the Grass Valley Empire Mines. He even broadcasted across national radio twice during WWII from within the mines.
“I always listened to the recordings of that as a kid,” Hosking says. “I found mining history fascinating.”
For Hosking – performing at The Works in Pacific Grove on Saturday – the mines of Northern California and her pastoral upbringing are among her most potent muses. In fact, the singer-songwriter recently descended into 16 to 1 Gold Mine in Alleghany, Calif., one of the only active gold mines remaining in the state, to record Live in the 16 to 1 Mine. The EP features Hosking on guitar and vocals, her husband Sean Feder on banjo and dobro and her daughter Kora on vocals, performing seven mine-related songs. In addition to a couple of Utah Phillips classics, Hosking contributed a new song she wrote especially for the session called “When Miners Sang.” The folk tune is rich with Celtic inspiration and Hosking’s love for the mining tradition that surrounded her as a child.
The rawness of the recording – it was made using only one mic – adds to the overall essence; the background resonates with trickling water and crunching quartz that transport the listener to the shadowy shafts.
“The content of most of my songs has to do with growing up in a rural area,” Hosking says. “That theme of rural and working roots seems to be running throughout ever since I got started.”
But the title track from her newest full-length release Come Sunrise was inspired and written for Hosking’s two daughters. The fiddle-driven love letter is best described as a comforting lullaby with a Loretta Lynn tinge.
“Listen to the songs that the birdies sing, feel a little better about everything/ Out of the dark and into the light, you know it’s gonna be alright come sunrise,” she sings.
“It’s a comforting song about hope and getting through hard times,” Hosking explains. “Having kids has made me a wiser person; there’s some mothering that comes out in a few other songs but I have to be careful not to let too much out.”
Hosking says the biggest difference between Come Sunrise and her previous two albums is the enlisted help of a professional producer.
“It was quite a mysterious thing to me,” she says. “I wasn’t really sure what a producer would do.”
Hosking researched the album credits of other artists’ LPs she dug, and decided to go with the Austin-based Rich Brotherton, who’s produced everyone from Robert Earl Keen to up-and-comer country musician Rodney Hayden.
“I wanted to have the professional help of a producer in a music city,” Hosking says. “And for me, music cities are Nashville and Austin.”
After spending time in Austin to record the album, Hosking was ready to delve back into the history that drives her music the most. Over the summer, she toured behind her new album throughout the United Kingdom and made sure to hit Cornwall, where her great-grandfather, the miner, was born.
For the musician, it was like visiting the initial source of her inspiration, and finding her own deeper place in the world.