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Kathy Mattea - "Hello...My Name is Coal"

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Kathy MatteaCheck out Kathy's latest video from the new Sugar Hill Records release "Calling Me Home". Songwriters Larry Cordle and Jenee Fleenor contributed the song, Builder Levy, James Minchin, and David McClister provided the iconic photos, and filmmaker Becky Fluke delivered the stunning visuals.

Kathy continues to happily accept invitations to speak to a variety of audiences on topics dear to her heart. This month she presents the keynote address to the Art Works for Virginia Conference in Richmond, and gives her "My Coal Journey" slideshow presentation as part of the Penn State Forum Speakers Series in State College, PA. Listen up!!!

Kathy recently caught up with old pal, Bill Cody, host of WSM's morning show. Kathy and guitarist Bill Cooley performed a few Christmas songs for Cody's Christmas breakfast concert live at the Country Music Hall of Fame. Thanks to engineer extraordinaire Charlie Mattos for photography and hospitality.

The Calling Me Home Tour hits the road again this month for the Winter/Spring 2013 leg, from Michigan to New England to her hometown for "Mountain Stage". Look for a show in your area on the full tour schedule

Four years ago, Mattea, one of the most sure-footed country-pop song interpreters of her generation, caught everyone off guard with an album of old-timey Appalachian mining songs called Coal. She’s delved even deeper into her Appalachian heritage with Calling Me Home, available from Sugar Hill on September 11th, 2012, co-produced with modern acoustic mastermind Gary Paczosa and featuring liner notes from bestselling author, and Kentucky-born kindred spirit, Barbara Kingsolver.

Mattea’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 Mattea 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.”

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