Violinist Regina Carter's debut for Sony Masterworks finds her knee-deep in history once again. Carter has become something of a genre-blind and stylistically-inclusive musicologist, marrying her violin, family history and more to music of various shapes and origins.
She paid tribute to the dark lord of the violin on Paganini: After A Dream (Verve, 2003), explored the songs that her mother loved on I'll Be Seeing You: A Sentimental Journey (Verve, 2006), and bridged the gap between various styles of African music and her own artistic inclinations on Reverse Thread (E1 Entertainment, 2010). Now, with Southern Comfort, Carter captures the spirit of her grandfather's time.
Carter works the folk seam here, visiting in on material that her paternal grandfather, an Alabama-based coal miner, might have been accustomed to hearing during his day and age. A bunch of traditional songs and a nugget or two that fit the stylistic bill, if not the exact place and time (i.e. Gram Parsons' "Hickory Wind"), are handled with care by Carter and her crack crew. Hoedowns and Irish heritage ("Shoo-Rye"), Cajun cooking ("Blues De Basile"), and heartfelt slices of front porch American life ("I'm Going Home") are all explored with extreme clarity and taste. Things get swampy and funky when drummer Alvester Garnett lays down the law ("Trampin'" and "Honky Tonkin'), and zesty when accordionist Will Holshouser steps up, but nothing goes too far afield from where Carter found it and placed it.
Elements of alt-country, folk, Bill Frisell-esque Americana, jazz, traditional music and more merge together beautifully on this gem of an album. Carter has no shortage of fine records in her discography, but this one tops them all.
Miner's Child; Trampin'; Hickory Wind; Shoo-Rye; Blues De Basile; I'm Going Home; Honky Tonkin'; Cornbread Crumbled In Gravy; See See Rider; I Moaned And I Moaned; Death Have Mercy/Breakaway.
Regina Carter: violin, handclaps, vocals; Gillian Friedman: handclaps; Adam Rogers: guitar; Marvin Sewell: guitar, handclaps; Chris Lightcap: bass, handclaps: Jesse Murphy: bass, sampling; Will Holshouser: accordion; Alvester Garnett: drums, handclaps, vocals; Chris Hinderaker: handclaps, sampling; Luca Madrazo: handclaps, vocals; Myles Weinstein: handclaps.
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