Regina Carter and company play eastern Americana.
In a masterful low-key opening on country steel guitar, a piece of Appalachia was transported to the audience, cradled in the open hands of the musicians, tilted toward them to be taken in. (The US cultural area of Appalachia is somewhat mountainous and is variously credited with reaching from southern New York state to the upper Alabama, Mississippi, and Georgia states.) For those in the audience with time in the central East, the transport was direct.
The music themes in this “Hickory Wind” could have come from any of the dusty porches or cross-roads Grange halls and country stores in the Shenandoah Valley 1900’s. The performance was in the spare yet august Trianon Theater in San Jose, with its delightful acoustics.
Regina’s Quartet was playing from their 2014 release “Southern Comfort.” (Click here for a narrative on the making of the release.) They moved on with the domestic strain “Miner’s Child”, a tune that sounds like it has little feet, walking. A lot of Regina’s pieces early in the night sounded like the strictly old-school style. A little later through there was the square dance-like arrangement of the light, children’s “Shoo-Rye,” a piece long popular in the Lousiana area.
The quartet played the poignant “I’m going Home.” Listening, one might see this song calling out on behalf of many. It could easily have been a Civil War melody, coming through a harmonica that had been in some soldier’s back pocket, well after dusk, by the watch fire or down the picket line.
The music brings up the foot soldier, out on the countryside a year, or years; authority over nothing more than his rifle, bedroll, and his own two feet. The view sees him carrying the hope of a win, but finally underlying it all, the bone-tired yearning for an end, for word that his brother or cousin is still alive, for the find that family and farm are still there, and that he is coming home.
All of the pieces of the release were original, group arrangements of traditional tunes from Regina’s family history. Later in the show, some were quite interpretive, but probably could be recognized by the expert listener. One of the final pieces, carrying gentle clear melody lines was “Cornbread Crumbled In Gravy,” with home kitchen sentiments.
Regina has appeared just before this in the SF Nourse Theater, and goes on this month to appear on a tour ranging from New York down through Virginia, Arkansas, and Louisiana. If you missed this show you will have another chance coming up. On the 23rd of April Regina will be back, at the SF Jazz Festival. If you go note that Regina’s stage sound was amped up a little bit, although not extremely so compared to some.