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Regina Carter pursues ancestral strains

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Saturday September 06, 2014

From The Boston Globe

Regina Carter pursues ancestral strains
By: Jon Garelick

About 10 minutes into my phone conversation with violinist Regina Carter, we’re interrupted by the loud blast of a train whistle on her end of the line in Maywood, N.J. “Petticoat Junction!” says Carter with a hearty laugh. We wait for the second blast before Carter continues. “Luckily, it’s a freight, and it doesn’t come through that often.”

There’s something weirdly appropriate about that train whistle — contemporary as it is, it’s also the sound of history, a sound that takes us further back than, say, the sound of a jet engine. And Carter’s work for the past decade or so has been all about history — family history in particular, and through that the story of cultural mix and migration, the story of the country as a whole.

Carter’s latest album, “Southern Comfort,” her Sony Masterworks debut, gave the Detroit-born musician a way to explore her Southern heritage — specifically, the life and times of her paternal grandfather, a man she never met. The album begins with the music he might have heard as an Alabama coal miner in the early part of the 20th century— the traditional children’s song “Shoo-Rye,” the lullaby “Cornbread Crumbled in Gravy,” the Baptist hymn “I’m Going Home,” the early gospel piece “I Moaned and I Moaned.”

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