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Mattea shows she's a winner - despite the competition

Regent Theatre, Arlington, Mass., June 10, 2024

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

Kathy Mattea laid it out there before she even played a note. She may have had very tough competition tonight – the hometown Celtics were playing the second game of the NBA finals - but she was not worried. "Basketball, shamsketball," she joked.

And with that, the country music veteran led off the very generous 110-minute show with a Count Basie tune, "Evenin'" in a show that, of course, touched on her hits throughout with a few surprises, including one unrecorded tune.

Mattea's star turn, of course, isn't what it once was, but she is an artist who has aged gracefully. Her smokey alto has a bit of wear (heck, at one point in her career, she wasn't able to sing period), but she stayed within herself, not pushing it too much and letting the gentle quality of her voice carry the songs

And Mattea sure has a plethora of worthy songs from the third song of the night – "Love at the Five and Dime" to the frisky closer, "455 Rocket."

Mattea smartly played a few songs from her most recent disc , 2018's "Pretty Bird." She tackled the chestnut, Ode to Billie Joe" and more than did justice to the Bobbie Gentry song. And her take on Mary Gauthier's "Mercy Now" was perfect for these difficult times, showing the power of music.

Mattea also unveiled a new song, "Greener Side of Grass," courtesy of her husband Jon Vezner and Pat Alger on what could be her next release (she told the crowd she has the idea of a new release was ruminating in her head). The tender song about living life as one ages without regret fit right in with the still heart tugging "Where've You Been," which would come later.

She also benefitted from her two band mates, Fred Carpenter on mandolin, fiddle and acoustic guitar and David Spicher on upright bass. Both had a lot of space to show their skills with Carpenter, a former music instrument store owner in Nashville, particularly spiking song after song with whatever instrument of choice he happened to be playing. An instrumental later in the show allowed each of them (Mattea said a benefit of COVID was that she was able to work on her acoustic guitar skills) to shine.

Mattea's sense of humor and warmth was apparent from the get go. Perhaps she has told the stories dozens of times, but it still was funny to hear her story of being in the airport in Nashville with guitar case in hand and a fellow passenger mistaking her for Patty Loveless.

The crowd didn't seem to care too much that the Celtics were playing for the NBA championship on this night. They witnessed a winner themselves with Kathy Mattea in the house.

©Country Standard Time • Jeffrey B. Remz, editor & publisher •
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