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Calling Kathy Mattea home

Courtesy photo
West Virginia's Kathy Mattea returns Sunday for another performance on "Mountain Stage" at the Culture Center in Charleston. Mattea has been a frequent guest over the years. In fact, she says she's lost track of how many times she's played the show.

WANT TO GO?

"Mountain Stage"

Featuring Kathy Mattea, Kathleen Edwards, Kim Richey, Shovels and Rope, Bonnie Bishop

WHERE: Culture Center Theater

WHEN: 7 p.m.

TICKETS: SOLD OUT (A few tickets are sometimes released at show time, though this is not a guarantee that any tickets will be available. If so, the at-the-door price is $25)

INFO: 800-594-TIXX or www.mountainstage.orgCHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Kathy Mattea said she doesn't have much interest in watching MTV's "Buckwild," even though it's a television show featuring people from her home state.

The Cross Lanes native and Grammy winner said, "That stuff with reality shows, to me, that's a cultural phenomenon. Everybody wants to be famous -- no matter what. Everybody wants to be special and everybody wants their special-ness to be seen. Because of that, it can be exploited on television.

"There's a certain sadness to me in that, but that's a part of the culture I don't want to put any energy into."

Instead, Mattea wants to pour her energy into more positive things that support the culture -- like her return appearance for Sunday's "Mountain Stage," which has been sold-out since December.

Mattea is a familiar face on the recorded live radio program. In fact, she's not entirely sure how many times she's been on the program, but the crew gave her a "Mountain Stage" coat one of the last times she was on the show.

"It's the warmest thing I own," she bragged.

The singer acknowledged that she's been on the show a lot, but probably doesn't hold the title for the most visits by a guest. She doesn't even think she's the West Virginian who's been a guest on the show the most times.

That, probably, belongs to Tim O'Brien, she said.

"Tim will always be slightly ahead of me," she said. "But we were neck and neck there for a while."

Mattea supports the show, which she sees as positive for West Virginia and for Appalachia.

 Last fall, Mattea released "Calling Me Home," a follow-up to her well-received 2008 record, "Coal."

"When I made Coal that came from a different place from any record I'd made," she said. "It happened right after Sago [mine disaster] and I was just torn up. Sago just wiped me out emotionally. I was bursting into tears in the middle of the day."

Mattea said a musician friend helped her find her way back. He told her, "Kathy, that's what music is good for. It helps us process emotions we don't understand."

So she made a record about coal mining.

The folksy and more root-oriented record was a departure from Mattea's better-known country-pop sound.

She said, "When I was growing up, there was all this Appalachian music going on all around me, but there was no one around to teach it to me. Nobody in my world was steeped in it."

Instead, she came to it later.

"It was like having something missing, then going back and picking up something that you didn't realize was missing," Mattea said.

She said discovering Appalachian music put her history into sharp focus. It gave context to who she was and inspired "Coal."

The style and subject matter of the record could have been a one-off, just an unusual project for a popular country artist later in her career, but Mattea said she still had songs that wouldn't leave her, songs that didn't make "Coal."

"And those became the seeds of Calling Me Home."

The new record, she said, is in a similar vein as "Coal," but maybe not as specific to mining.

"I just wanted to make a record that's about Appalachian culture," she said. "The interesting thing for me was to play these songs about a very specific place and very specific culture in other parts of the country and see how they respond to it."

Reality shows aside, Mattea believed, there's a lot of interest in this part of the world. Appalachia is just different.

"There's a particular connection that people here have with a sense of place," she said. "It's subtle, but huge -- a beautiful thing that we're losing everywhere."

"Calling Me Home," she said, celebrates the identity of Appalachia.

"I want to put my energy into the things I want to see highlighted and what I think is very special about Appalachian culture."

Reach Bill Lynch at lynch@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5195.


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