Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

March 24, 2009

Kathy Mattea Concert

Mahaiwe, Great Barrington
by Eric Sutter

The wind in the mountains that chilled the Berkshires in the evening was warmed by a gifted singer in Kathy Mattea. With Mattea, here is a country girl who is also a modern day independent woman with a good head on her shoulders. Her music was clean without boundaries, with an excellent voice that rang true. Her lyrics were not all sweet, as she has an uncanny ability to probe the darker side of human nature.

She started her set with "Dark as a Dungeon" about a coal mine disaster. Her family comes from a long line of coal miners from West Virginia and "COAL," her latest CD, is a tribute to her place and people. Acoustic guitar, fiddle, mandolin and stand-up bass accompanied her mountain soul voice on songs "Goin' Gone" and "Untold Stories." Her Appalachian tales included the Jean Ritchie song "Blue Diamond Mines." This was real country music... heartfelt and not from your ordinary country star. "Love at the Five and Dime" included most in the audience becoming the chorus on the line "dance a little closer to me."

"You'll Never Leave Harlan Alive" featured an acoustic guitar solo and a powerful mandolin solo that cut high about all other sounds. The beautiful melody of "Come from the Heart" left plenty of room for some fine instrumental work. The beloved Grammy winner, "18 Wheels and a Dozen Roses" was a sure hit. She rocked the Stones' "Gimme Shelter," showcased an acoustic slide guitar on her bluesy "455 Rocket," and sang her heart out on Hazel Dickens' hard luck tale, "Black Lung." Mattea encored with a spritely Celtic instrumental.

At one point, Mattea called the Mahaiwe a jewel -- her voice echoed in this beautiful venue, and the audience echoed their praise of Mattea.