Rita Hosking’s music has taken her throughout the Pacific Northwest, across the Atlantic to the United Kingdom and even to the Netherlands, but at the end of the day, it takes her home to Shasta County’s Hatchet Mountain.
The Davis-based singer-songwriter is literally returning to her north state home on Saturday, when she and her band, Cousin Jack, will perform at the Gray Pine Farm in Oak Run as part of the Oaksong Society’s final outdoor concert of the summer.
Sharing the bill will be Dehlia Low, a bluegrass band out of Asheville, N.C., that has earned high praise from Hosking, who has been touring with them recently. “Those guys are like a super group, as in superhero. Just some amazing songs and musicianship.”
Fans and critics have shared similar sentiments about Hosking’s music, which is a kind of rootsy Americana that is spare and nuanced yet soulful and resonant. The California Bluegrass Association called her voice a “soulful howl from the mountains” while Q Magazine, a British music publication, said “There’s a grit to her songs and sinewy toughness to her voice that weave their own spell.”
Hosking’s parents moved to Hatchet Mountain when she was 3, and the eastern Shasta County forest remains her first memory of home. The Hosking clan lived a quarter-mile east of the Moose Camp turnoff on Highway 299 and her grandparents ran the Hatchet Mt. Store & Tavern. When she wasn’t attending schools in Round Mountain and Montgomery Creek, Hosking worked in the garden, fed chickens, stacked firewood, helped in the orchard and swam at Hatchet Falls.
Most of the songs on her five recordings (her latest, “Burn,” was financed solely by friends and fans and will be released Sept. 13 — bluegrass legend Bill Monroe’s birthday) can be traced to her upbringing and the Intermountain characters she met.
Earlier songs like “Mill for Mountain” was a tribute to her father, Ron Hosking, who worked at the mill in Burney (pulling green chain, no less) and later moved to Woodland and Fresno for mill jobs. “Dad, he put a lot of sweat and tears into working so we could stay on the mountain. We moved for mill jobs, but we always kept the house,” Hosking said.
“Silver Stream,” the title track from her second recording, tells of an older man who lived with the Hosking family in an ancient Airstream trailer parked next to the tavern. “He was an old logger and trapper. He was an orphan. He was a real interesting old character and we grew attached to him,” Hosking recalled. His trailer was destroyed in the devastating Fountain Fire of 1992.
Hosking’s parents saved the Hatchet Mountain home from the Fountain Fire, but they sold the place seven years ago. “After the fire, the winters got pretty harsh with the winds whipping through. They sold it and moved to Oregon, then Washington and now Idaho. I encouraged them to do it. I knew they couldn’t handle it anymore. It’s way too hard to make a living up there.”
Hosking’s mother, Judy, worked at Shasta College before she retired, managing a computer lab for physically and mentally challenged students. Prior to that, she worked at the Opportunity Center in Redding.
Touches of home populate Hosking’s newest record as well. One song about demolition derbies, a staple of county fairs, was inspired by a recent visit to the old Hatchet Mountain home. “My parents don’t own it anymore, but a real nice family has it and there are horses, and a garden and chickens everywhere — and some demolition cars out by the barn. I went to a few (derbies) when I was a kid so I had to write about it,” Hosking said.
Hosking also pays homage to her Cornish descendants, especially her great-grandfather who worked as a miner in Nevada City. “When Miners Sang” is about the Cornish carol choir her great-grandfather sang in; it’s also the title of a book by Gage McKinney on the history of the Cornish miners.
Hosking even descended into the 16 to 1 Mine in Alleghany, near Nevada City, to record an EP with her husband Sean, who plays banjo, dobro, bass and guitar. “I wrote a song special for that and put it on the EP. I loved it so much I put it on the album. It’s about a little girl whose dad works down inside a mine. She wishes that he could be topside with her more and enjoy the outside. She gives him little things to remember the outside.”
The song is titled “Dream of a Miner’s Child.”
What: Shasta County-raised Rita Hosking and her band, Cousin Jack, in concert. Sharing the bill will be the bluegrass band Dehlia Low out of Asheville, N.C.
When: Gates open at 5 p.m., dinner served at 6 and show starts at 7:30 p.m.
Where: Gray Pine Farm, 27723 Raspberry Ln, Oak Run, CA 96069
Cost: $28 with a dinner of smoked ribs or chicken; $18 for concert only; kids 16 and under admitted free.
Tickets available at Bernie’s Guitar, 3086 Bechelli Lane in Redding (223-2040) or the Oak Run Country Store (472-1029)
Note: Bring blankets and lawn chairs for seating; picnic dinners and refreshments welcome. Visit oaksongs.org for more information.
Jon Lewis is a freelance writer living in Redding. He has more than 30 years experience writing for newspapers and magazines. Contact him at email@example.com.
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