Renowned jazz violinist Regina Carter's latest album, called Southern Comfort, started out as an exploration of her family tree -- an attempt to discover and interpret the folk songs that her grandfather, a coal miner in Alabama, perhaps would have heard during his lifetime.
What resulted, however, is a deep and expansive look at how the Appalachians' blend of Irish and Scottish settlers, Native Americans and slaves combined to create the music that we today know as traditional Americana -- and, how that music has continued to evolve and inspire artists throughout our nation's history.
After visiting the Library of Congress and listening to field recordings made by John Wesley Work III and Alan Lomax, Carter -- who has previously explored the jazz standards of her mother's youth and the music of the African diaspora -- narrowed down the pieces that caught her ear. The resulting album includes Cajun fiddle tunes like "Blues de Basile," gospel hymns like "I'm Going Home," and even a few more contemporary songs, like Hank Williams' "Honky Tonkin'." All performed, of course, in Carter's signature imaginative -- and always swinging -- style.