Mattea Returns to Roots with New CD: COAL (4/1/08)

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Monday February 18, 2008


NASHVILLE, TN – On April 1, 2008, Grammy-award winning singer Kathy Mattea will release her 17th album, Coal, a collection of songs paying tribute to her West Virginian family heritage in the region’s coal mining culture. Coal was produced by country singer/songwriter/performer Marty Stuart.

Appropriately, best-selling novelist and fellow West Virginia native Homer Hickam (Rocket Boys and the upcoming Red Helmet, a romantic tale set in a collapsed mine) provides liner notes for the album, which plays like a textured novel itself, and features a trio of Nashville A-list players: Byron House (bass); Bill Cooley (guitar); and Stuart Duncan (fiddle, banjo). Producer Stuart also plays guitar and mandolin, and duets with guest background vocalist Patty Loveless on the track, "Blue Diamond Mines." Tim O’Brien and sister Mollie O’Brien, longtime musical compatriots of Mattea’s, share the other background vocals. John Catchings on cello; Randy Leago on keyboards and accordion; and guest steel player Fred Newell round out the album’s sound.

The tragic Sago Mine disaster, which killed twelve miners in 2006, brought back memories of the Farmington Mine disaster of 1968 near Fairmont, WV – an event that still haunts the then-9-year-old Mattea, whose grandfathers were miners and whose mother worked for the union. "When Sago happened, I got catapulted back to that moment in my life and thought, ‘I need to do something with this emotion, and maybe this album is the place to channel it.’ I knew the time was right."

Mattea carries on the Appalachian tradition of the "songcatcher" with Coal. The album features traditional and contemporary songs, many of them by songwriters with Appalachian roots. Songs by Jean Ritchie, Billy Edd Wheeler, Hazel Dickens, Si Kahn, Utah Phillips, Merle Travis and Darrell Scott were all chosen to articulate "the lifestyle, the bigger struggles," and "to speak to the sense of place and sense of attachment people have to each other and to the land."

Mattea’s own connection to and respect for the land (and for the fate of Earth) was renewed in 2006 after she attended Al Gore’s now-landmark global warming power-point presentation at Vanderbilt University. She "walked out with a burning commitment to take this message to as many people as I can." She trained with Gore and top scientists, and now travels with the Climate Project presenting the slide-show lecture to audiences across the United States. "I want to spread the word of hope to regular people. We really can be part of the Solution," Mattea says of the education project. "Even the smallest action empowers us to change our world."

Of the new album, Mattea reckons, "It’s a coming together of a lot of different threads of my life." Coal will be released on Mattea’s newly formed label Captain Potato Records. Distribution and marketing will be handled by Thirty Tigers/RED.