|This appeared in The Virginian-Pilot - April 18, 2008|
Coal, the latest from Grammy award-winning singer Kathy Mattea, may be one of the finest in her more than two-decade-long career.
The project- performing songs that chronicle the hardscrabble lives of coal miners and their families - has been on the West Virginia native's mind since she was 19. She wisely chose Marty Stuart as producer and chief instumentalist, gathered a core group of top acoustic musicians and programmed a slew of songs penned by Billy Ed Wheeler, Merle Travis, Utah Phillips and Hazel Dickens.
Mattea's full-bodied soprano adds the right heft and soul to each tale of hard times, sacrifice and coal dust. Mining the best of Americana, she presents dramatic, timeless music full of bluegrass, Celtic, country, folk and rural blues. The album's atmosphere is as dark as coal and its emotions as deep as the shafts that penetrated the West Virginia and Kentucky mountains.
Mattea has created another stunning new work of classic American music.
By Eric Feber
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