Excerpted from the magazine for Billboard.com.

After a long and very successful career as a country artist, Kathy Mattea is branching out musically with "Roses," due July 30 from Narada Records. To help further her musical evolution, she signed with Narada, a label located far away from the country music establishment.

After leaving her previous label, Mercury Records in Nashville, Mattea says, "we did have some interest from Music Row labels, but I've done that. I'm not 20 years old. My navel is not pierced. You get to a point where [you're thinking], 'If I'm not going to make these records that have been rolling around in my head for years now, when am I going to do it?' "

In choosing Narada, Mattea says, "I felt like the business was changing, and I was interested in finding people who didn't see my musical restlessness as a liability. I was looking for people who were excited about what I was doing." The label, meanwhile, was "looking for someone like me with a bit of a high profile but who wasn't going to make formula records," Mattea says.

While she hasn't turned her back on the country format, Mattea says, "I feel like there is a trap in thinking that you have to keep playing that mainstream game. I've done that and had success at it. The trap is thinking I have to keep doing it over and over again." With Narada, she says, "I feel like I've found people who wanted to give me alternative marketing ideas and allow me to make different kinds of music. What they did was take the music and say, 'We'll figure out where to put it.'"

In recording the album, Mattea says, "I wanted to make a record that was contemporary folk, that was acoustic-based but still rocked, and that had some Celtic influence to it."

Mission accomplished on all fronts. Among the album's best tracks are a remake of Kim Richey's "I'm Alright," as well as "The Slender Threads That Bind Us Here," one of two songs Mattea wrote for the project with Marcus Hummon. Mattea, who produced the album with Ed Cash, continues on Roses the exploration of Celtic music found on her last few albums, with the two-part instrumental "Isle of Inishmore."

Mattea, who has won two Grammy Awards and was twice awarded the Country Music Association's female vocalist of the year trophy, previously had a long and fruitful relationship with Mercury, which began in 1984. That label released 12 of her albums, including a platinum-selling greatest-hits project in 1990. Five more of her albums are certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America. She's notched 37 singles on the Billboard Hot Country Singles & Tracks chart, including four No. 1s and 12 additional top 10 hits.

Her tour to support "Roses" will take her to her preferred venues -- performing arts centers -- as well as theaters around the U.S. The tour kicks off in October and runs through the spring.





Excerpted from the July 27, 2002, issue of Billboard. The full original text of the article is available in the Billboard.com members section.

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