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Mattea returning to S.L. stage

2 performances on the docket this weekend

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Country singer Kathy Mattea says she experiences such pure joy onstage while performing that she can't stand being onstage with people she doesn't like. If that's the case, members of the Utah Symphony can most assuredly count themselves among Mattea's good friends.

Mattea makes her second visit to perform with the Utah Symphony Friday in Abravanel Hall and Saturday at Deer Valley.

Since her last visit here, in February 2000, she has released a new album, "The Innocent Years," which met with many positive reviews, acknowledging the recording's mature, introspective tone. Mattea also took on the roles of producer and sound mixer, staying with the songs "until the last note."

Since then, she has taken time to "write and live a little bit."

This year Mattea is doing only 30 shows, instead of her normal 80 — a fact that keeps resurfacing in Mattea's subconscious. "I haven't performed as often lately, so I've dreamt a few times that I forgot the words to my songs," she said during a telephone interview from Nashville.

Because of the decrease in the number of her shows, Mattea said she is excited for the Salt Lake concerts, and that it should bring something special to the performances. "It will be sort of a reunion for the band, and I'm really looking forward to it. There are some good things about not playing together too much sometimes. It's more loose, things don't get so nailed down, and sometimes you realize just how much you love a certain lick."

Mattea has had a long and fruitful music career spanning two decades. She hit it big in 1987 with her No. 1 single "Goin' Gone," and the next year she released the hit song "Eighteen Wheels And A Dozen Roses."

But Mattea was determined to expand musically and not be pigeonholed by the narrowing country-music format. One major influence that crept into her music making was a new-found love of Celtic music. "I came to country through bluegrass and folk; an acoustic base. I spent time in Scotland and developed a great interest in Celtic music. I guess I have eclectic tastes and just love a great song."

Mattea said that although she does not come to Celtic music from any pure place, so to speak, she enjoys dabbling in it, and her fans have been supportive. What's really important, she says, is "whether the song speaks to people."

At her performances with the Salt Lake Symphony, Mattea said she wants to play a wide variety of her songs, including a selection from "The Innocent Years." "At the performance, if I do my job right, people leave feeling like they've been on a musical journey. When people get caught up and go on the journey with you it's great."

Kathy Mattea and her band will play with the Utah Symphony Friday in Abravanel Hall at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at Deer Valley Ski Resort. Tickets for the Friday performance are $14-$34 for general admission and $8 for students. Tickets for the Saturday performance are $43 reserved, $27 on the lawn and $72 for families. For more information call (801) 323-6800.

E-mail: pthunell@desnews.com