Quietly, almost surreptitiously, Rita Hosking, like the teacher she is, has over the years gently led her listeners into her world of softly stated folk music, an amalgam of sunny California and steelier mountain climes. She’s a story teller with a guitar who has always embellished her songs with banjo and Dobro, keeping it simple but direct. Her last release, Little Boat was a miniature delight, 27 minutes of unalloyed joy as Hosking sang of small town life and a child’s wonder of science.
Frankie and The No-Go Road follows the template of the earlier albums, produced again by Rich Brotherton (of Robert Earl Keen fame) who plays a plethora of stringed instruments and keyboards here while husband Sean Feder adds Dobro and Djembe. The twist is that it’s a bit of a concept album, or at least a set of songs with a thematic connection, the connection being the concern about the untrammelled drive of commerce and its abuse of the individual’s aspirations along with its effects on society and ecology. There’s no storyline as such but Hosking adroitly weaves her theme around the concept of Wetiko, a Native American word for those who consume all around with no thought for the future. She directly addresses this in the song Wetiko singing “Take it all, take it now, take it any way you can. And you will be a royal in this guns’n’dolls land” but overall the message is oblique. The “hero,” Frankie is on an odyssey set off by his search for a better world as he observes wanton commercialism. He considers a flight from it all but instead decides to teach folk how to achieve a better world. He battles the villain and returns only to find that messiahs are not always welcomed, unabashed he continues to deliver his wisdom. In a nutshell this is it but the above is gleaned from Hosking’s written intros on the lyric booklet as the songs exist both within and without the story. You can enjoy the album as you wish, a set of very fine songs or as a message.
As a set of songs the album maintains Hosking’s place as one of our finer artists. She sings with a fine sense of ache and the songs are all excellent rootsy excavations. Mixing a folky sound with a more primitive and bare boned banjo blues style she delivers a set of songs that each deserve attention. Our Land is a song that is shiveringly good while Mama Said is a pure joy. The band are excellent on the gently rolling Black Hole and there’s a wonderful sense of defiance on Resurrection.
Rita Hosking is touring the UK in November, dates here.