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Music / Kathy Mattea

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A Country Music singer from Charleston, West Virginia, known for her folk- and bluegrass-influenced style.

Discovered by record producer Byron Hill in 1983, Mattea signed to Mercury Records that year. While her first two albums were largely unsuccessful, she hit her stride after pairing up with Record Producer Allen Reynolds for a series of successful discs: Walk the Way the Wind Blows, Untasted Honey, and Willow in the Wind. From these, she had hits with such hits as "Love at the Five and Dime", "Goin' Gone", "Eighteen Wheels and a Dozen Roses", "Come from the Heart", and "Where've You Been". These songs gained her critical favor for her bluegrass and folk influences, with soft, mellow songs anchored by strong lyrics from such writers as Nanci Griffith, Pat Alger, and Richard Leigh, along with musical contributions from Don Williams, Vince Gill, and Béla Fleck. By the end of the decade, she had married songwriter Jon Vezner and won the Country Music Association's Female Vocalist of the Year award twice, in addition to earning a Grammy for "Where've You Been".

After a Greatest Hits Album in 1990, her momentum slowed somewhat, but she continued to turn out a myriad of well-received albums. Time Passes By in 1991 saw her adding Celtic music influences for the first time. After a hiccup with Lonesome Standard Time's singles all bombing and a vocal cord surgery enforcing a few months' rest, she won a second Grammy in 1993 for the Celtic-tinged Christmas album Good News. The slicker Walking Away a Winner produced her last big hit in its title track, while two more Mercury albums came and went with little notice. Since then, her material has largely been independent, producing no radio hits while garnering critical acclaim for her mannered and soft sound. Her last two albums, Coal in 2008 and Calling Me Home six years later, were mainly inspired by coal mining. As of September 2021, Mattea is the host of the NPR live music program Mountain Stage, taking over hosting duties from co-creator Larry Groce. Mattea had been a frequent performer on the show since her debut in 1985 and eventually became a regular guest host before permanently taking the job.

Mattea's husband, Jon Vezner, has written songs for her, along with songs by Diamond Rio and Clay Walker among others. In addition to her music, Mattea is known as an AIDS activist.


  • Kathy Mattea (1984)
  • From My Heart (1985)
  • Walk the Way the Wind Blows (1986)
  • Untasted Honey (1987)
  • Willow in the Wind (1989)
  • A Collection of Hits (1990)
  • Time Passes By (1991)
  • Lonesome Standard Time (1992)
  • Good News (1993)
  • Walking Away a Winner (1994)
  • Love Travels (1997)
  • The Innocent Years (2000)
  • Roses (2002)
  • Joy for Christmas Day (2003)
  • Right Out of Nowhere (2005)
  • Coal (2008)
  • Calling Me Home (2012)
  • Pretty Bird (2018)

Tropes present in her work:

  • Age-Progression Song: "Where've You Been" follows a married couple at several points in their life, the last verse occurring when both are elderly.
  • Car Song: "455 Rocket," which tells the story of a woman who enjoys winning drag races in an Oldsmobile with a powerful V8 engine.
  • Christmas Songs: "God Ain't No Stained Glass Window" was issued as a Christmas single in 1985. Good News (1993) and Joy for Christmas Day (2003) are her two Christmas albums.
  • Dual-Meaning Chorus: "Where've You Been", again. The first time, it refers to the pickup line "Where have you been all my life?"; the second, to the wife's concern over the husband coming home late; and the third, to the now-elderly wife suffering from dementia and having not seen her husband in years.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: Her first album was far more pop-influenced than its successors.
  • Everything Is an Instrument: Some of the "percussion" on "455 Rocket" is actually Mattea and the other musicians slapping their knees.
  • Fun with Acronyms: "BFD":
    It ain't no BFDnote , he's got his CMT
    No S-E-X but that's OK
    At least he ain't no SOB like that Ph.D
    That took his E-X and ran off to L.A.
  • Last-Second Word Swap: Used in "455 Rocket" to avoid using the word "shit":
    Now whose junked out piece of Ch.....evelle is this?
  • Mixed Metaphor: "Clown in Your Rodeo" has a particularly jarring one in an otherwise rodeo-themed song: "Hand me my feather duster / I'm cleaning house out of the gate / Before my heart starts caving in".
  • New Sound Album: Walking Away a Winner has slicker country-pop production.
  • Non-Appearing Title: "The Battle Hymn of Love".
  • The Power of Love: "Love Travels":
    Love travels the miles upon the wings of angels
    Love finds you, I swear its true
    I can love you from here
    On moonbeams, on heartstrings
    Love makes its way through anything
    Love finds you, I swear it's true
    I will always be near, I'll love you from here
  • Re-release the Song: "The Battle Hymn of Love" was originally an album cut from Untasted Honey, but was issued as a single from her Greatest Hits Album two years later.
  • Truck Driver's Gear Change: "Standing Knee Deep in a River (Dying of Thirst)" changes from C to C-sharp at the last verse.
  • Wanderlust Song:
    • "Eighteen Wheels and a Dozen Roses" touches on this, as the now-retired trucker and his wife "buy a Winnebago / set out to find America".
    • "Nobody's Gonna Rain on Our Parade" is a woman expressing this desire to her lover.