Thursday, February 14, 2008
– 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, on April 1. Marty Stuart producedthe disc.
The tragic Sago Mine disaster, which killed 12 miners in 2006, brought back memories of the Farmington Mine disaster of 1968 near Fairmont, West Va. - 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."
The album features traditional and contemporary songs, many 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."
Fellow West Virginia native and writer Homer Hickam (Rocket Boys and the upcoming Red Helmet) provides liner notes for the album, which plays like a textured novel itself, and features a trio of Nashville A-list players:
Musicians on the album include Byron House (bass); Bill Cooley (guitar); and Stuart Duncan (fiddle, banjo). 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 players.
Mattea's connection to land and planetary issues was stimulated in 2006 after she attended Al Gore's 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 scientists and now travels with the Climate Project presenting the slide-show lecture to audiences across the U.S.
"I want to spread the word of hope to regular people. We really can be part of the solution," Mattea said 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.