Celebrated Northern California country singer-songwriter Rita Hosking and her band, Cousin Jack, return to the mining town her Cornish grandparents called home during a special Sunday performance presented by Center for the Arts in downtown Grass Valley.
A descendant of Cornish miners who sang in the mines, Hosking grew up with deep regard for folk music and the power of voice. Accompanying Hosking and her guitar on stage will be her full band, Cousin Jack — with husband Sean Feder playing Dobro and banjo, Andy Lentz on fiddle and Bill Dakin on upright bass. Cousin Jack was the name given to Cornish immigrants who often worked in the mines. In addition, Hosking’s eldest daughter, Kora Feder, will play claw hammer banjo on some new songs.
“We’ll plan to play some new songs as well as many from my other four albums,” Hosking said.
Lauded for her storytelling and sense of place, Hosking will release her newest CD, “Little Boat,” at this weekend’s show.
“People have told me that they appreciate the stories that come with the music — it brings back memories or helps to capture some stories from their lives. I think that when people can step back and think about or express their stories, it makes them more content. No matter whether it’s sad or happy, the ability to “see” it, instead of being so muddled up inside of them, is empowering.
Besides her country-folk-style songs and a few “fired-up bluegrass tunes to let the band rip,” Hosking and Cousin Jack will likely cover one or two old favorites, like “Farewell Angelina” by Bob Dylan or the tune “I Ride an Old Paint.”
Raised in Shasta County near Burney, Hosking says she was influenced by her grandparents on her father’s side who both hail from Cornwall and settled in Grass Valley on Empire Street to work at Empire Mine.
“Both of them were from mining families in Cornwall, and Pop became chief mine mechanic before the mine closed,” Hosking said.
Her grandfather sang in the Cornish Glee Clubs and the Cornish Carol Choir.
“We’d listen to their old recordings at Christmas every year — you could pick out Pop’s tenor … My father and his father would stand and sing or hum, gazing out the window at the snow. This was very influential for me — I understood folk music to be a powerful, potent and beautiful thing,” Hosking said.
Out of respect and curiosity to that mining and musical heritage, Hosking, her husband and daughter Kora made a 2010 live recording down in the Sixteen to One Mine in Alleghany.
Hosking has played at the Miners Foundry and at the Nevada Theater in Nevada City, the Father’s Day Bluegrass Festival at the Nevada County Fairgrounds and on the stage at the North Columbia Schoolhouse. Fans will also know her as a frequent performer on KVMR radio.
Among the honors she has won, Hosking was the winner of the 2008 Dave Carter Memorial Songwriting Contest at the Sisters Folk Festival and a finalist in the 2009 Telluride Troubadour Contest.
Hosking remembers finding her voice while waiting for the bus on quiet backcountry roads of her youth.
“I used to sing down at the end of our driveway while I waited for the bus. When I was about 13, I was alone there waiting for some time with no one around but perhaps a couple horses. I’d belt out anything from the radio or record collection — from Loretta Lynn to Bobby Gentry to traditional Russian folk songs. At some point, I realized I liked to sing, and it didn’t sound half bad sometimes,” Hosking recalled.
When she was 14, Hosking jumped at the chance to join a small girls singing group organized by her school’s cook who played in a jug band called the Mountaineers. Hosking played washboard, her first instrument besides the trumpet that she played in the school band. Hosking says her biggest musical influences are her parents. She has fond memories of her mother singing and playing the flute, old upright piano and a very old pump organ that came around Cape Horn.
Hosking’s love of music shines on her recordings. Her album “Come Sunrise” won Best Country Album Vox Pop in the 2010 Independent Music Awards. Her follow-up album, “Burn” was placed in the top 10 “Young Female Artist releases for 2011” by No Depression magazine and listed as a “Hidden Gem of 2011” by the UK’s Observer.
“I put a lot of concentrated spirit, heart and sometimes ferocity into my songs and singing in an effort to reach people. If I can do that, I feel like I’ve done my job. This is our chance, we have one life to lead and live, and I want to share as many moments of awareness and understanding as I can,” Hosking said.
For information about Hosking, go to www.ritahosking.com.