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Kathy Mattea shows the trouble with country radio

Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts, Cerritos, Cal., Feb. 18, 2001

By Dan MacIntosh

CERRITOS, CA - Kathy Mattea opened her set with the sprightly "Trouble With Angels," but she could have just as easily replaced the word "angels" with the words "country radio," since this support institution also isn't there when she needs it. This is a real shame, though, since her most recent and final Mercury album "The Innocent Years," which dropped off the charts before you even knew it, is one of her most touchingly personal albums to date.

This point was driven home as Mattea returned to its material again and again throughout the night, accompanying songs with appropriate spoken introductions on the value of family and the priorities of life.

The song "Why Can't We" asks questions about why previous generations - without all the benefit of our technology - could still find happiness in the simple things of life. But why can't we, it asks. "Standing Knee Deep in a River (Dying of Thirst)" suggests that we already have what we need, but we can't see these valuable things, even though they're sometimes right in front of our faces.

Mattea sings these songs and tells these stories with wit and wisdom, as one who has lived what she shares. Her voice his full-bodied and sincere and rarely gives in to what she calls "diva moments."

Her flexible band ably handled everything from orchestrated ballads to light-rockers to the Celtic-flavored numbers at the end of the show.

But it was Mattea's personal touch that made this show a memorable evening.

Opener Nickel Creek was equally impressive, as these under 23 year olds - with their casual dress-- made age-old bluegrass appear youthful. Vocals were alternated between fiddler Sara Watkins' fetching high register and mandolinist Chris Thile's heartfelt performances of his own compositions. Thile also shined as an instrumentalist, breaking off numerous breathtaking solo moments.

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