November 17, 2016
Kathy Mattea to Keynote SERFA Conference in North Carolina
ASHEVILLE, NC: Grammy Award winning musician and activist Kathy Mattea will deliver the keynote address at the 10th Annual SouthEast Regional Folk Alliance (SERFA) Conference in Montreat, NC on Friday, May 19, 2017. Mattea, whose No. 1 country hits include “Goin’ Gone,” “Eighteen Wheels and a Dozen Roses” and “Come From the Heart,” was one of the artists who consulted with initial SERFA president Kari Estrin in shaping the then incipient organization. Her 18 albums are woven through with bluegrass, gospel, and Celtic influences, and have garnered multiple CMA, ACM, and Grammy Awards. Mattea, who draws inspiration from her Appalachian roots, is a torchbearer for often overlooked musical legacies like those of Hazel Dickens and Jean Ritchie.
Formed in 2002, SERFA ( is the southeastern regional chapter of Folk Alliance International ( According to its website, the Southeast Regional Folk Alliance exists to preserve, promote, develop and celebrate the diverse heritage, of roots and indigenous music, dance, storytelling and related arts of the southeastern United States. It has produced its annual conference at the Assembly Inn in Montreat, NC since 2011. Previous keynote speakers include Peggy Seeger, Si Kahn, Pam McMichael, and John McCutcheon.
A commercially successful country music star able to bring elements of folk, bluegrass, gospel, and singer/songwriter intimacy to her music, Mattea was born in Cross Lane, WV in 1959. In college she joined the bluegrass band Pennsboro, dropping out of school two years later to move to Nashville. In 1983 she landed a deal with Mercury Records. Her third album in 1986, taking its title from her version of a Tim O’Brien song, *Walk the Way the Wind Blows*, delivered a breakthrough with radio, fans, and
critics. Besides her first Top Five hit, a cover of Nanci Griffith's "Love at the Five and Dime," the album delivered three other Top Ten singles: the title track, "Train of Memories," and "You're the Power." 1987's *Untasted Honey* included a pair of number one country hits: "Goin' Gone" and "Eighteen Wheels and a Dozen Roses" while “Life as We Knew It" and O’Brien’s "Untold Stories" also made the Top Five. Released in 1989, *Willow in the Wind* boasted an even stronger folk influence, going gold with the number one hits "Burnin' Old Memories" and "Come from the Heart," and the number two "She Came from Fort Worth." Its Top Ten hit "Where've You Been," co-written by her husband, Jon Vezner, won her a Grammy for Best Female Country Vocal. Her 1993 Christmas record *Good News* won a Grammy for Best Southern/Country/Bluegrass Gospel Album.
During the early 1990s, Mattea began exploring the links among bluegrass, country, and traditional Scottish folk music, including noted Scottish singer/songwriter Dougie MacLean on 1991's *Time Passes By*. The hit title track of 1992's *Lonesome Standard Time* came from the pen of bluegrass musician Larry Cordle. In 2008, Mattea released the bluegrass-flavored *Coal* for the Captain Potato label. She combined her art with activism on the *Coal* tour presenting a moving program about the issues facing people living in Central Appalachian coal country. At a 2008 concert produced by SERFA board member Art Menius for Appalshop in Whitesburg, KY, she met Ritchie, from nearby Viper, KY, and sang for an audience including widows of coal miners. Mattea followed *Coal* with another collection of songs entitled *Calling Me Home* celebrating the Appalachian culture of her native West Virginia while expanding the vocabulary of acoustic roots music from mining country in 2012 for Sugar Hill.
No stranger to the Montreat area, Mattea has been part of the distinguished teaching staff that travels each summer to Warren Wilson College for the Swannanoa Gathering <>, organized by SERFA board member Jim Magill. Mattea said, “It’s just very, very fun for me because there’s not a lot of context where you sit with people who are digging into their own potential as artists in a serious way. And I love talking about that. I love talking about all aspects of it.”
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