Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music
(b 21 June '59, Cross Lane WV) Country singer, songwriter, guitarist. Began playing guitar in junior high, singing folk songs at Girl Scout Camp and classical music in her high school choir; at university she turned to bluegrass in local group Pennsboro '76; moved to Nashville '78; worked as tour guide at Country Music Hall of Fame, waitress and secretary. Demo records landed record deal with Mercury and minor chart successes prod. by Allen Reynolds '83--5; breakthrough came with acoustic folk-country cover of Nanci Griffith's 'Love At The Five And Dime' '86. Further hits followed as she built a reputation for risky and inspired song selection, not a prolific writer herself. 'Eighteen Wheels And A Dozen Roses' no. 1 '87 was CMA Single of the Year, 'Where've You Been' '89 a touching tale of a married couple's lifelong devotion, written by husband Jon Vezner, named CMA Song of the Year '90 and Mattea was named Female Vocalist for second consecutive year. Though not maintaining that level of country success she retained her musical integrity; she explored Celtic influences, recording in Scotland with Dougie McLean; album Time Passes By incl. Julie Gold's 'From A Distance' '90, a song championed by Griffith and a pop hit by Bette Midler: three of Mattea's albums incl. a hits collection made the top 100 pop albums in Billboard '90--91. She had a successful operation on her vocal cords '93; organized and participated in AIDS concert Red, Hot And Country '93 in Nashville, recorded for TV and released as an album with guest appearances by Johnny Cash, Alison Krauss, Marty Stuart and many others. She is held in high esteem by fellow country artists but her records aren't played on country radio in recent years, albeit the strongest music of her career. Other albums incl. Kathy Mattea '84, From My Heart '85, Walk The Way The Wind Blows '86, Untasted Honey '87, Willow In the Wind '89, Lonesome Standard Time '92, Good News '93, Walking Away A Winner '94, Love Travels '97, all on Mercury.