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Regina Carter - Southern Comfort / World Magazine review

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Jazz violinist Regina Carter remembers taking baths in a tin pail on the front porch of her grandmother's home in Alabama, where she spent several childhood summers. Wanting to better understand her roots, she went digging in Ancestry.com and learned her paternal grandfather was a coal miner. That discovery inspired Carter to take up the family tradition in a new way: With her violin serving as pickax and shovel, she's mined the music of her grandfather's time to wonderful effect.

"I thought it would be interesting to record some of the music that would have been popular or happening during his lifetime, growing up in Alabama and the different places he lived and worked," Carter told NPR. For research, she raided the field recordings of renowned ethnomusicologists Alan Lomax and John Wesley Work III, housed at the Library of Congress.

The precious metals and gems Carter excavated are assembled on her newest album, Southern Comfort, which begins appropriately enough with the traditional "Miner's Child." Carter digs into the minor motif with ease and grit which, together with plaintiff guitar picking, quickly conjures up a vista of hills dotted with worn-out workers. A few bars into the song, however, swirling cymbals and a driving bass make clear that this project is no museum-style reenactment of the past.

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