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Kathy Mattea Soars on 'Pretty Bird'

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Tuesday September 04, 2018

From The Tennessean

After having to relearn to sing, Kathy Mattea soars on ‘Pretty Bird’
By: Juli Thanki

[…] After months of living room sessions, Mattea forced herself to return to the stage. She told Cooley, “If I wait until I am through with whatever this is, I’ll be so scared to walk on stage that I’ll sabotage myself.”

The duo brought their “Acoustic Living Room” show to any audience they could find and, in the process, learned that the crowd didn’t care if Mattea could perfectly hit every note she could in 1985. They just wanted to hear something real.

When Mattea was ready to return to the studio to record the songs she and Cooley honed in her living room and on stage, she called upon longtime friend and collaborator Tim O’Brien to produce.

The project that became Pretty Bird took about a year to record, said O’Brien, as the two had to find pockets of time in between her tour schedule and his commitments with bluegrass band Hot Rize.

“Pretty Bird” is Mattea’s first new album in six years. There’s no overarching lyrical theme like her stunning 2008 collection of mining songs, Coal, and there’s no musical motif. The 12 tracks range from the jazz-inflected “October Song” to an astounding a cappella rendition of the title track, which was originally written and recorded by one of her musical heroes, the late Hazel Dickens.

These are the songs that brought Mattea back to singing. And now she can’t stop, lifting her voice in the shower or while doing dishes.

“I always said that if I got to take the big ride, I just wanted to still be singing in my 50s and enjoying it,” said Mattea, who turns 60 in June. “I was hoping it would feel this way.”

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