Raised in the mountains of West Virginia, Kathy Mattea explores the dirty, dangerous lives of coal miners on her new album, Calling Me Home. It’s an all-star record, featuring cameos from Alison Krauss, Emmylou Harris, Stuart Duncan and Bryan Sutton. Mattea is still the star, though, with a voice as deep and haunting as the mineshafts that fill her lyrics.
On “Hello, My Name Is Coal,” she sings about the love/hate relationship between coal miners and the profession that brings them money and sickness in equal measure. The song is told from coal’s point of view, and the music video — a stark, black and white clip from director Becky Fluke — features old-school photographs of Appalachian miners, including Mattea’s own grandfather.
“This song knocks me out because it dares to tackle the complexity of the subject of coal in a three minute song,” she says. “For many people back in Appalachia and beyond, coal is both a blessing and a curse, and much of the time there’s no easy way to talk about it. Larry and Jenee did a beautiful job of opening up the subject, in a three minute song. The pictures came from filmmaker friends and photographer friends. I wanted to include real pictures of the coalfields, and real people. I think there’s a beauty and depth to them, especially in black and white. We were lucky to be able to collaborate with these great artists. The last face is my grandfather, all suited up for the night shift in 1940 in Fayette County, West Virginia. Becky Fluke did a beautiful job with this video — she is such a talented director and has accomplished much at a young age. What a joy it was to work with her.”