Written by May 1st, 2008 at 3:37 pm

Label: R.E.D. Distribution 
Rating: ★★★☆☆

Honest, captivating content, delivered through her a rich, pliable alto, has been the hallmark of Grammy-winning singer Kathy Mattea’s career. Past hits, like “Where’ve You Been” and “18 Wheels and a Dozen Roses,” and current offerings delivered on her new disc, Coal, share a common thread: these are stories that originate in the heart. Produced by Marty Stuart, the arrangements on Coal are spare next to Mattea’s former discography. The bluegrass sound is expertly wrapped around equally organic lyrics that pay homage to Mattea’s heritage. A native of West Virginia, Mattea is no stranger to the weight of a miner’s life so artfully depicted on Coal. Mattea’s grandfathers dug in the mines and raised her parents in the coal camps. “Red-Winged Blackbird” and “Dark as a Dungeon” paint harrowing, heartbreaking pictures culled from Mattea’s lineage. More of a song finder than a songwriter, Mattea sings like a woman with a true understanding of the words.


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