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From the Country Standard Time Archives

Mattea gets to the heart of the matter

Borders, Boston, March 17, 2000

By Jeffrey B. Remz

BOSTON - Kathy Mattea had been away from the city for probably a good five years.

And she hadn't exactly spent a whole lot of time on the charts either mainly because she took off about three years to care for her ailing parents, among other things.

But with a brand new, well-done album, "The Innocent Years" out the day before, Mattea came to the heart of Boston for a 40-minute lunch-time set before about 150 enthusiastic fans.

Playing with math and engineering books behind her (Mattea pointed out that she was in fact an engineering major for the two years she spent in college, one of many warm remarks during the set), isn't exactly typical.

But the setting did not matter. Mattea was in fine form throughout. Of course, the emphasis was the new album - that's the whole idea of an in-store promotion - with every song during the regular set from "The Innocent Years."

She started with the new single "The Trouble With Angels," with the problem being that they never seem to be around when you need them.

Mattea certainly sang very well. She gets to the heart of the songs, a key consideration given the subject matter of highly personal songs, even if she did not write all of them.

She talked about her father who had been very sick with terminal cancer, but now is somehow cancer free before launching into Hugh Prestwood's "That's the Deal,"about an aging couple caring for each other. She touched upon family issues as well in "Why Can't We."

Mattea is able to tackle such subject matter without being schmaltzy. It almost seems as if the songs were written specifically with Mattea in mind.

And she also showed a humorous side with the "bonus track" on the new album, the closing track, "BFD." The song talks about an evolving relationship with lots of acronyms thrown in. The audience ate it up big time.

Mattea came back for an encore (giving a faux response, something akin to "For me?" to the audience clapping) of past hit "Love Travels" and a stirring Irish-flavored instrumental.

Mattea strides a fine line between the pop country so prevalent today and her more country and bluegrass oriented roots.

Whether she will be able to "succeed" in today's marketplace remains to be seen, but she sure did succeed when it came to doing it in concert.