animated musical notesThanks for the Musicanimated musical notes
Country Music News for the Country Music Enthusiast

Celebrity Spotlight County Music News Association News

Celebrity Spotlight


SPOTLIGHT ON

KATHY MATTEA AT THE MUSICAL INSTRUMENT MUSEUM IN PHOENIX, ARIZONA
Photos by Glenda S. Paradee

Kathy Mattea performed April 15, 2014 at the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix, Arizona and then also at The Fox Theater in Tucson, Arizona on April 16, 2014.
 
Mattea had many fans attend both shows.  Many had seen her before and she made many new fans too.  She sings such inspirational music.  She sings songs of love, life, hope, heartfelt, soul music and throws in some sad songs too.  She adds in songs about the environment, and songs about a car.  I call her a world music performer. 

Mattea sang many songs off her newest CD titled "Calling Me Home" and her Grammy nominated CD "Coal".  She added all her hits from throughout her long career.

Throughout her show, she adds in stories about the songs and experiences she had meeting the songwriters.  It makes her show even more enjoyable when you hear her telling the stories.  She throws in some good humor too.

Kathy Mattea spent time after the shows to meet the fans, sign autographs and take pictures.  She is the type of person that when you see her in concert or meet her, you can't wait to see her again.

Kathy will be having a fan club party in Nashville, TN on June 4, 2014.  For more information, check out her website at www.mattea.com.

KathyMattea_Phx_Tucson_2014 295.JPG (625858 bytes)

KathyMattea_Phx_Tucson_2014 298.JPG (296080 bytes)

KathyMattea_Phx_Tucson_2014 308.JPG (577614 bytes)

KathyMattea_Phx_Tucson_2014 306.JPG (267437 bytes)

KathyMattea_Phx_Tucson_2014 312.JPG (260842 bytes)

KathyMattea_Phx_Tucson_2014 316.JPG (267045 bytes)

KathyMattea_Phx_Tucson_2014 327.JPG (313542 bytes)

KathyMattea_Phx_Tucson_2014 329.JPG (98309 bytes)

KathyMattea_Phx_Tucson_2014 331.JPG (204129 bytes)
Glenda S. Paradee and Kathy Mattea

More on Kathy:

Kathy Mattea is one of the most respected female country stars of her era, a commercially successful hitmaker who was able to bring elements of folk, bluegrass, gospel, and singer/songwriter intimacy to her music. Mattea was born in Cross Lane, WV, in 1959 and received classical voice training starting in junior high, but also took up the guitar when she discovered folk music. In 1976, while in college, she joined the bluegrass band Pennsborro and two years later dropped out of school to move to Nashville. She worked odd jobs and perfected her songwriting, and in 1983 she landed a deal with Mercury on the strength of her demo tape. Her self-titled debut was released in 1984, and the follow-up, From My Heart, appeared the following year; none of the singles from either record managed to breach the Top 20.

However, Mattea's third effort, 1986's folky Walk the Way the Wind Blows, proved to be her breakthrough both critically and commercially. Her cover of Nanci Griffith's "Love at the Five and Dime" was her first Top Five hit, and the record produced three other Top Tens in the title track, "Train of Memories," and "You're the Power." 1987's follow-up album, Untasted Honey, confirmed Mattea's newfound stardom, featuring two number one country hits in "Goin' Gone" and "Eighteen Wheels and a Dozen Roses"; "Untold Stories" and "Life as We Knew It" also made the Top Five. Released in 1989, Willow in the Wind boasted an even stronger folk influence, and it became her first album to go gold on the strength of the number one hits "Burnin' Old Memories" and "Come from the Heart," and the number two "She Came from Fort Worth." Additionally, the album's Top Ten hit "Where've You Been," co-written by her new husband, Jon Vezner, won her a Grammy for Best Female Country Vocal.

Seeking to keep her music fresh by returning to its roots, Mattea made several trips to Scotland in the early '90s, studying the links between country music and traditional Scottish folk. Her own music kept getting rootsier and more eclectic, as 1991's ambitious Time Passes By featured guest spots by Emmylou Harris, folkies the Roches, and Scottish singer/songwriter Dougie MacLean. The album's title track and "A Few Good Things Remain" both hit the Top Ten, but overall the album's singles didn't chart as well as was usual. She subsequently had throat surgery, but recovered fully to record 1992's Lonesome Standard Time, a less ambitious but still eclectic album whose title track was a near-Top Ten hit.

Mattea backed off her critically acclaimed recent sound for 1993's more commercial Walking Away a Winner, whose title track became yet another Top Five hit; however, the same year, she also issued the gospel-oriented Christmas record Good News, which won a Grammy for Best Southern/Country/Bluegrass Gospel Album. After a several-year hiatus, Mattea returned in 1997 with Love Travels, which balanced her folk and mainstream country leanings; it sold decently well, but failed to produce any major singles. Mattea subsequently then recorded the ballad-heavy The Innocent Years, a heartfelt tribute to her ailing father. Wanting to explore her taste for Celtic folk, Mattea hopped labels to Narada, for whom she debuted in 2002 with the eclectic Roses. The holiday album Joy for Christmas Day arrived in 2003, followed by Right Out of Nowhere in 2005. In 2008, Mattea released the bluegrass-centric Coal for the Captain Potato label. Mattea followed it with another collection of songs from mining country entitled Calling Me Home in 2012 for Sugar Hill.

Calling Me home was, co-produced with modern acoustic mastermind Gary Paczosa and featuring liner notes from bestselling author, and Kentucky-born kindred spirit, Barbara Kingsolver.  Kathy's new direction couldn't have taken her further from her old way of doing things. Where once she was pitched songs by Music Row writers, now she collects the generations-old and new but old-in-soul tunes that move her at folk gatherings, and rounds out her repertoire through extensive research. Two songs here came from a CD that Alice Gerrard, of the influential '70s folk duo Hazel & Alice, personally pressed into her hand at one such festival.

Once Kathy found her songs, there was still the matter of wrapping her voice around them. A mountain modal folk ballad may sound like the simplest thing on earth, but that doesn't mean it's easy to sing. Says Kathy, "My big fear when I made Coal was I didn't grow up singing this stuff from when I was young. I've had a commercial music career for decades now. Am I gonna sound like a lounge singer trying to sing Appalachian songs?"

Thankfully, that fear didn't stop her from taking the leap, and both Coal and Calling Me Home offer decisive proof that she's no dilettante. She's always had a profound respect for traditional folk music-her ancestors played it, and in college she even took clawhammer banjo lessons and formed a bluegrass band-but she only recently came to accept that the music is in her blood. "I had to sing 'Black Lung' with Hazel Dickens in the fourth row," she says, referring to the classic song and the revered Appalachian woman who wrote and sang it, about the tragic death of her brother. "Now that will grow you up. Either you own your performance of the song, or you don't."

There's another song from Dickens's pen on Kathy's new album, and three from Jean Ritchie, another legendary singer and songwriter of mountain music. Ritchie, now nearing 90, got onto her about altering a few notes in the melody of Ritchie's "Now Is the Cool of the Day" when they performed the a cappella, earth-loving gospel song together live. Kathy chuckles at the audacity it takes to tweak a song inherited from a major figure in the tradition. But one listen confirms that bringing her own interpretive gifts and rich, rounded vocal tone to selections that have received austere, high-and-lonesome readings over the years is a considerable contribution, and one that feels perfectly right.

"I don't think I could've sung a lot of these songs when I was 20," says the singer who was twice named the Country Music Association's Female Vocalist of the Year. "I just don't think I had the gravitas in my voice to pull it off, to tell you the truth."
Even during her radio-ruling days in the late '80s and early '90s, Kathy was proud of representing the people and place she hailed from on the global stage, but it was only after she'd been away from Cross Lanes, West Virginia for some three decades that she felt called to fully immerse herself in musical appreciation of her roots.

That she sings from the perspective of an Appalachian whose career took her elsewhere is part of what makes Calling Me Home feel as contemporary as it does traditional. The top-notch cast of players doesn't hurt either. The contributions of the multi-talented Stuart Duncan and Bryan Sutton, along with bassist Byron House, percussionist Jim Brock, harmonizing siblings and fellow native West Virginians Tim and Mollie O'Brien and Mattea's longtime guitarist Bill Cooley, make for a crisp, vivid new-timey string band palette.

Kathy not only celebrates what she loves about the place where she grew up, but wrestles with the necessary evils her people have endured in the name of survival-both of her grandfathers mined coal, her mother worked for the union and her brother ships it to power plants-and grieves over both the destruction coal mining has wrought on the land and the passing of the generations who served as the communities' glues. That's called telling it like it really and truly is.

Of one of the songs she chose to record, Kathy notes, "'Black Waters' was written in 1970 or '71, and it is so valid right now. I mean, people are living that story right now. I love that it clearly articulates that experience, and also that, inadvertently, it articulates how little has changed."

Kathy traveled quite the journey to reach the point where she was ready to advocate for the environment in her music. Twenty years ago, she was courageous enough to take a lonely stand for HIV/AIDS awareness on the stage of the CMA Awards, then organize an album whose proceeds benefited research of the disease. But she didn't necessarily sing about that sort of thing back then. "I mean, I didn't set out to be an activist," she explains. "It's just that there have been moments where I couldn't not speak, because of something I valued."

The music of the Occupy Wall Street movement has shown that beat-you-over-the-head protest songs don't resonate as well with people today, and Kathy's song selection is perfectly in step with the moment. She gravitates toward grounded storytelling, singing from the points-of-view of a maple tree, a miner's wife, a homesteader on family land, an Appalachian expat? even of coal itself. Just as importantly, from start to finish her chosen material affirms a shared sense of humanity. She reflects, "I just feel like these songs speak for all Appalachians. I wanted to sing for something-not against something."

There just isn't a template for a career like Kathy Mattea's. Her mainstream accomplishments have already earned her a place in the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame, and, never one to tread water creatively, she's made her gracefully daring leap into the roots-honoring trad folk world. "To be a complete novice at something after you've been singing for three or four decades, to feel that humility of 'I don't even know if I'm going to be able to pull this off again,' it's a great gift," she shares. "A lot of times people go through their whole lives and never get to that place."

And it's a very good place for Kathy to be. "I feel like I just made the album of my life; I articulated something I was put here to say. It's my childhood and life experience of a sense of place and culture and history and family, and of all the music that I've learned and all I've learned performing all rolled into one thing."

Thanks For The Music Kathy!


Celebrity SpotlightCounty Music NewsAssociation News
copyright Thanks for the Music, 1997-1999