Kathy Mattea Biography
Kathy Mattea, full name Kathleen Alice Mattea (born June 21, 1959 in South Charleston, West Virginia), is a female country music and bluegrass performer who often brings celtic sounds to her music, particularly with her release of Love Travels, one of her most critically popular albums.
She was born in South Charleston because it had the nearest hospital to her parents' home in Cross Lanes, where she grew up, graduating from nearby Nitro High School. In 1976, while in college, she joined the bluegrass band Pennsboro, and two years later dropped out of school to move to Nashville. She worked as a tour guide at the Country Music Hall of Fame and did backup vocal work for Bobby Goldsboro before she landed a deal with Mercury Records in 1983.
Mattea's third album, 1986's folky Walk the Way the Wind Blows, proved to be her breakthrough both critically and commercially. Her cover of Nanci Griffith's "Love at the Five and Dime" was her first hit (and in addition, earned Griffith notice as a songwriter), and the record produced three other top ten songs.
Further hit songs include the truck-driving song "Eighteen Wheels and a Dozen Roses" (1988), "Come From the Heart" (1989), "Burnin' Old Memories" (1989), "She Came From Fort Worth" (1990), "Lonesome Standard Time" (1992), "Walking Away a Winner" (1993), "Maybe She's Human" (1994), and "Nobody's Gonna Rain on Our Parade" (1994).
The heart-wrenching "Where've You Been," which Mattea's husband Jon Vezner co-wrote with singer/songwriter Don Henry, won her a 1990 Grammy for Best Female Country Vocal. Mattea is a repeat winner of the County Music Associations Female Vocalist of the Year, which she won on the success of "Eighteen Wheels and a Dozen Roses" and "Where've You Been."
The following year, Mattea took part in Voices That Care, a multi-artist project that featured other top names in music for a one-off single to raise money for the allied troops in the Gulf War. The project included fellow country singers Garth Brooks, Kenny Rogers and Randy Travis. She has also been heavily involved in HIV/AIDS-related charities beginning in the early 1990s, and is often credited with leading the country music community, commonly regarded as the last segment of the entertainment industry to address the AIDS epidemic, to finally do so. She performed with Mary Chapin Carpenter on VH1's very first Save The Music concert, which also starred Bette Midler.
Mattea won another Grammy in 1993 for her gospel-oriented Christmas album Good News. Her first single from the album, "Mary, Did You Know?" went on to be covered by Kenny Rogers with Wynonna, as well as Reba McEntire.
Mattea subsequently moved to MCA and, in 2000, released the ballad-heavy The Innocent Years, a heartfelt tribute to her ailing father. Wanting to explore her taste for Celtic folk, Mattea hopped labels to Narada, for whom she debuted in 2002 with the eclectic Roses.
With her social activism and her taste for songs with introspective lyrics, it has been often said that Mattea owes as much to the traditions of folk music as mainstream country.
Though her recent work has failed to make the country charts, Mattea continued to enjoy a strong following throughout the late 1990s and early 2000s; her albums are critically well received, and she continues to tour and perform. She continues to have strong support from a very active fan club, whose members refer to themselves as MatteaHeads.