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Kathy Mattea’s Opening Night a Success

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Monday March 26, 2012

From Art Now Nashville

Kathy Mattea’s opening night a success
By: Ron Wynn

Kathy Mattea’s career and stature have blossomed since her third LP, 1986′s Walk The Way The Wind Blows, made her a country sensation. Newly inducted last year into the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame and coming off the signature LP Coal, Mattea’s an established star with several successful singles and albums. She is also a spokesperson for social causes ranging from environmentalism and the plight of coal miners to HIV/AIDS charities. Opening a three-night stand at the Schmerhorn Symphony Center Thursday night accompanied by the Nashville Symphony Orchestra, Mattea performed almost all her big hits, plus some change-of-pace numbers.

Comfortable not only with country, but folk, bluegrass and Celtic influences, Mattea’s a vibrant and appealing singer. A two-time Country Music Association Female Vocalist of the Year and multiple Grammy winner, Mattea’s a polished, confident and extremely versatile artist. Whether it’s intimate ballads, reflective sagas, vintage tunes or contemporary tales of toil and trouble, she’s a consistently dynamic performer.

Mattea’s also an excellent interpreter and underrated songwriter. She doesn’t mind poking fun at herself, and clearly enjoys being on stage. Mattea’s at home on acoustic or electric instruments, and interspersed licks from a variety of guitars she had onstage during most of her selections. She was capably backed by a select group whose ranks included Eamonn O’Rourke on fiddle and mandolin, David Spicher on bass and guitarist Bill Cooley. The lengthy set (80-plus minutes) began with a couple of selections from “Coal,” Mattea performing them in a sturdy, emphatic fashion. The early menu also included her first hit, an earnest cover of Nanci Griffith’s “Love At The Five and Dime,” which sounded even more serene thanks to nimble assistance from the symphony.

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