Published by METRO
So I was burning a couple of Rita Hosking CDs to my computer, and couldn’t help but notice that my unbranded music library had identified one as ‘country’ and the other as ‘folk’. ‘Nice try, but you clearly aren’t aware of “Americana”,’ I told it, shaking my head. “Which marries the musical styles of those two genres, but defines itself primarily by their more authentic tradition – story-telling for, of, and by, the people,’ I continued on, in a patronising tone.
That tale isn’t entirely true, but what it says about this singer-songwriter is. Hosking’s voice carries a grace and her lyrics a dignity that are a testament to the integrity of American roots music.
You might sooner associate California with beaches and A-list celebrities in Hollywood than with county fairs and logging communities in the mountains, but after listening to a few of her songs, you’d soon realise the error of your ways. Drawing heavily on her upbringing, Hosking’s material elevates blue-collar Americans from their worn pick-up trucks and dirty dishes to the pedestals of heroes.
But although her words simply describe ordinary folk going about their ordinary lives, her characters come to represent the American spirit. They evoke an imagery that takes on an odd transforming power of its own when set to the sound of a soothing harmonica or a sorrowful steel guitar.
It’s for this aspect of her performance that she’s earned comparisons with Woody Guthrie – the legendary American folk musician who inspired a young Robert Zimmerman – as well as today’s alternative country starlets Diana Jones and Gillian Welch. High praise indeed, you might think, for a mother-of-two who was until recently a teacher.
OK, but if she’s so American, why doesn’t she just stay where she is across the pond? Well, her bagpipe-playing, tenor-voiced great-grandfather migrated to the US from Cornwall back in his day, so her gig in the West Country later in the tour will mark a pilgrimage of sorts for Hosking.
What’s more, she’ll be sharing the Mono stage with Britain’s very own Michael Chapman. Admired by musical legend John Peel, this veteran singer-songwriter’s sound takes folk away from its conventional parameters and into the respective realms of jazz and blues.
Drawing on a wide spectrum of material that encompasses 30 studio recordings from nearly four decades on the circuit, Chapman will provide a musical gravitas to the pair’s 12-date tour, which offers much expectation and intrigue.
As the days become darker and the weather more wretched, an evening of mellow roots music with a warming mug of tea or dram of whiskey certainly wouldn’t go amiss. So thank goodness you’re going to Mono, where all three are available tonight.