By Eric Berg | KUSP News
(Regina Carter debuts her new album “Southern Comfort” for 2 shows Monday, April 21st at Kuumbwa Jazz.)
Jazz Violinist Regina Carter’s excellent new album is “Southern Comfort”. This is not a jazz record per se, but a contemporary crossover exploration of Carter’s musical roots inspired by her journey up and down the family tree. Continuing the theme of her previous two albums – one of which was nod to her mother’s jazz favorites, “Southern Comfort” focuses this time on what Carter imagines what the dad side of her family might have listened to or appreciated both old and new. Her band’s novel arrangement of Hank Williams’ venerable “”Honky Tonkin’” is a point in case.
“Southern Comfort”, Carter’s first album for the Sony Masterworks label, is an engaging exploration of 11 songs ranging from the traditional “Miner’s Child” to Gram Parson’s contemporary “Hickory Wind”. It’s what they call a crossover record aimed at appreciative folks who listen to Americana but aren’t necessarily dyed in the wool jazz fans.
Each track is arranged by a different member of Carter’s backing band, which includes her husband, drummer Alvester Garnett. The result is an instant satisfying grab bag of musical genres ranging from Appalachian string music to guitar rock, country swing, old timey blues and exotic accordion jazz with a little gospel and spoken word tossed in. When it works, it’s sweet and will melt your heart like Carter’s solo in the middle of the traditional chestnut, “I’m Going Home” arranged by guest guitarist Adam Rogers.
My only small but very whiny complaint is Marvin Sewell’s over the top, Van Halen style guitar solo vs. Carter’s violin on singer Lucas Madrazo’s contemporary redo of the old timey blues standard, “I Moaned and I Moaned”. It almost takes me back to the day of violin driven early 70’s fusion bands like The Flock and so on. However, all is forgiven once the t beautiful gospel fadeout commences.
“Southern Comfort” is the third in a series of albums recorded by Carter as she digs up her family’s American folk music roots. It’s a musical journey that up to now was made possible in part by a sizable “genius grant” this gifted jazz violinist received from the MacArthur Fellowship Program in 2006.
Regina Carter’s has reinvented herself with “Southern Comfort”. It’s an inspired journey by this the violinist as she imagines traditional American folk music both old and new that her paternal grandfather, an Alabama coal miner might have liked then as well as now. Highly recommended. -Eric Berg