Kathy Mattea to Honor Jean Ritchie

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Thursday May 22, 2014

From Lexington Herald-Leader

Concert in Berea, album honor legacy of Jean Ritchie
By: Walter Tunis

Sometimes the only thing more difficult than establishing a musical legacy is ensuring it endures. That was the feeling Michigan folk artist Mick Lane got after a journey to Berea to visit with his longtime friend, Kentucky mountain music matriarch Jean Ritchie.

Lane had enlisted Ritchie’s help a few years earlier by asking her to contribute a tune to a tribute album dedicated to the music of folk giant Utah Phillips. Ritchie agreed, and the resulting 2009 recording, Singing Through the Hard Times, wound up with a Grammy nomination.

That got Lane thinking that Ritchie and her music were worthy of a similar honor.

“When I was down visiting her in Berea, she said, ‘I suppose now that folks will just forget me.’ At first, I kind of laughed and said, ‘Well, you are Jean Ritchie.’ But that kind of put some juice in the engine for this project. It was like, ‘Look. Let’s get this done while she can still enjoy it.’”

Lane then hit the recruitment trail. For nearly two years, he compiled new recordings of tunes written or interpreted by Ritchie that were cut by folk artists representing multiple generations. Among his recruits were Judy Collins, Kathy Mattea, Janis Ian, Robin and Linda Williams, Dale Ann Bradley, Alison Brown and many others, including, in one of his final recordings, folk legend Pete Seeger.

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