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Happy Hosting, Happy New Year
Kathy Mattea made her name during the 1980s and 1990s on the mainstream Nashville country scene, and though the success was nice - that’s not to mention the four CMA Awards, Mattea has always enjoyed the less cluttered folky side of the business, not least songs that have stood the test of time and working with like-minded people. One of whom she had produce the record, Wheeling, West Virginia-born but now longtime Nashville resident multi-talented picker, singer-songwriter Tim O’Brien. O’Brien and Mattea go back a long way. To when she was just starting make early indents on the Billboard country chart (she enjoyed chart success with his songs Walk The Way The Wind Blows and Untold Stories). Mattea and her fellow states person come through with a dozen songs well suited to Mattea. Surprisingly, she has fears of her singing voice failing her as changes have taken part to her voice changing as she became older.
While there’s a couple of songs I could have done without her inclusion of the timeless Bobbie Gentry classic Ode To Billie Joe, Mary Gautier’s Mercy Now and long friend Dougie MacLean’s This Love Will Carry are all first class selections. She even has the amiable Scot drop by to share vocals, and with the two blending perfectly a rare moment in the musical legacy of both is captured and, they aren’t the only ones inspired by the gorgeous lyrics for her guitarist Bill Cooley gets to spread his wings with some choice guitar. On hearing the track I feel a couple of full blown duets would have given the album even greater strength.
Mattea also does a splendid version of Martha Carson’s golden oldie I Can’t Stand Up Alone, and with an inspired musical arrangement that includes fiddle, banjo and harmony vocals the seasoned O’Brien and Mattea combine to deliver arguably the best version of the song other than of Carson’s. Likewise could be said of her take of bluegrass, folk legend Hazel Dickens’ Pretty Bird. Better still is The Wood Brother’s cleverly written Chocolate On My Tongue. It allows Mattea room to express herself more, and dare I say it roll back the years to make it into her own song! I look forward to Mattea making more music like this.
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