Some years ago we heard Rita Hosking’s Come Sunrise and were pretty much blown away by it. Its simplicity, the tales of hard life and Hosking’s vocal delivery were all well above par and invited comparisons to Gillian Welch and Rachel Harrington. So it’s very nice to report that her latest offering Little Boat maintains and even improves on the quality shown on the earlier release.
It’s a simple affair with little or no frills. Hosking plays acoustic guitar while her husband Sean Feder adds Dobro and banjo and producer Rick Brotherton supplies guitars, bass and hammer dulcimer. Making it something of a family affair Hosking and Feder’s daughter Kora Feder co writes one song and plays some banjo while Kathy Brotherton is called upon to add some accordion. The end result is a beautifully played set of songs that have a refreshing back porch feel, unhurried, relaxed, picking away at the end of the day to while away any worries. Hosking’s voice is wonderful, faintly reticent of Natalie Merchant’s, it’s warm and delivered effortlessly and the music suits the vocals perfectly. Topping it all Hosking has a poet’s way with words. She hymns the wonders of the Sierra’s singing
I’ve been around the world, to the countries of the East/ The halls of science have felt the soles of my feet/ And I got my start in the sweet Sierra range/ Where a grove of trees and the mountains call my name/ And I’d climb up in that old pine tree, with the sap on my elbow and a scrape on my knee/
And I’d read about the places I’d see when I climb down, but in my heart I’m always Sierra bound.
The opening song Parting Glass could be the deathbed thoughts of someone not raging against the dying of the light but accepting the inevitable while Nothing Left of Me is a bitter recrimination against a lover who has had his pleasure and moved on. Clean is a slyly humorous song that collects the thoughts of a student forced to clean for folk to pay for her education while Five Star Location, the one song here where the music shifts a gear up is a snapshot of a North Carolina community whose jobs have been shipped to China. The crowning glory however is the co write with Kora Feder, Where Time Is Reigning. Together they capture a wonderful and intimate childlike explanation of the wonders and mysteries of nature and science.
What did dinosaurs think? Says the kid in the dinosaur mask/And in her tar pit dreams, she pulls out a bottle of glass/And inside is a note, it’s a riddle of the treasure hunt type/And as she grows old, every year the peaches will get ripe/It’s the kingdom of the first and second hand/It’s an infinite and most enchanting land/Where rocks fly, old cars try, where everything dies but time.
With only seven songs and running in at around 27 minutes it’s over almost before it begins but it’s an album that grows in stature listen after listen and as we said before perfect to listen to at the end of the day to lighten the load.