Kean Stage presents Kathy Mattea on Sunday, April 29 at 3:00 pm in Kean University’s Gene & Shelley Enlow Recital Hall. Kathy Mattea is the two-time Grammy-winning singer of such classics as "18 Wheels and A Dozen Roses," "Where've You Been," and many other hits. She said that her new album offered her a "re-education" in singing.
That album, COAL, is a re-education for the listener as well, a recording that reshapes the way we think about music, reminding us of why we love it so much in the first place. Mattea will perform works from the new release as well as her familiar country, Celtic, a capella and world music hits.
“I want to be able to be alive musically," said Mattea, also a Country Music Association Female Vocalist of the Year. "I want to have a growing edge that I can identify and feel." Mattea has followed a path of discovery and re-thinking throughout a career spanning 11 albums of intensely felt music. Now Kathy Mattea is embarking on an exciting new phase of her musical journey.
The songs on COAL are more than just mining songs. Mattea said she wanted to pay tribute to "my place and my people" on a record that is as much a textured novel as it is an album. Raised near Charleston, West Virginia, her mining heritage is deep: both her parents grew up in coal camps, both her grandfathers were miners, her mother worked for the local UMWA. Her father was saved from the mines by an uncle who paid his way through college. "It's a coming together of a lot of different threads in my life," Mattea said.
Mattea is the multiple recipient of the Country Music Association's and Academy of Country Music's Single Of The Year award and kept a steady presence at the top of the country charts with nine Top 10 singles, including a 1990 duet, "The Battle Hymn Of Love," as well as the tender "Where've You Been," co-written by her husband, Jon Vezner, which earned her 1990s Grammy for Best Female Country Vocal Performance. The same year also saw her first gold album, Willow In The Wind.
Throughout the '90s, Kathy's successes continued, charting still more singles, including 1994’s top five single "Walking Away A Winner," and releasing three more gold albums, the platinum-selling A Collection Of Hits and a long-awaited Christmas album, Good News, which earned Kathy her second Grammy, this time in the Gospel category.
With her social activism and her taste for songs with introspective lyrics, it has been often said that Mattea owes as much to the traditions of folk music as mainstream country. In 1991, Mattea took part in Voices That Care, a multi-artist project that featured other top names in music for a one-off single to raise money for the allied troops in the Gulf War. The project included Garth Brooks, Kenny Rogers, Randy Travis and introduced Celine Dion to the American audience.
She has also been heavily involved in HIV/AIDS-related charities, beginning in the early 1990s, and is often credited with being among the first to champion this cause among the country music community.
She performed with Mary Chapin Carpenter on VH1’s very first Save The Music concert, which also starred Bette Midler. Mattea traveled the country presenting Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth and speaking to crowds about the importance of fighting global warming and the environmental and physical devastation of coal mining.
Whatever the music, whatever the style, the feeling behind it is what Kathy Mattea treasures most. "At the end of the day music has to move me on a gut level. I think it's just about making some kind of connection with people. And I try to do that by staying connected with it myself. I guess by giving people a window on your insights into your own life, sometimes, if you're lucky, you can give them an insight into their own. If I can do that with my music, then I can't ask for much more."