Review by Bokonon
Photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk
Country stars on the way down are much more interesting.
The list of performers who have found full artistic flower on the far side of topping the charts is intimidating. Johnny Cash’s run of American Recordings made him as much a punk icon as a face on Nashville’s Mount Rushmore. His daughter Rosanne closed the door on King’s Record Shop to open a window on her soul. Her ex-husband Rodney Crowell turned his attention from Billboard rankings to the chinaberry trees and attic fans of his youth, finding a new fanbase in the process. And the ever cantankerous and scarily hirsute Steve Earle decided that being a woolly Woody Guthrie was more fun than being a drug addict.
Add Kathy Mattea, to that list. Granted, Mattea as a character has never been as interesting as the suspects listed above, but she does share a late career renaissance. With 2008’s Coal and 2012’s Calling Me Home, Mattea found her West Virginia roots for the first time, turning deeper towards the bluegrass tinge she’d always possessed while unearthing deeply rooted songwriters like Si Kahn, Alice Gerrard and Jean Ritchie.