Kathy Mattea sings at the Garde Friday

Kathy Mattea has sung a plethora of country hits over the years, from "455 Rocket" to "Eighteen Wheels and a Dozen Roses" to "Where've You Been."

In recent years, though, she has begun exploring the folk music of Appalachia. That interest grew out of something very personal. Both of Mattea's grandfathers were coal miners, and when 12 miners died in the 2006 Sago coal-mining disaster in West Virginia, she felt an enormous sense of grief. A friend suggested that Mattea, who grew up in West Virginia, turn that emotion toward music. So she began delving into Appalachian compositions and produced her Grammy-nominated 2008 album "Coal."

Just last September, she released a follow-up of sorts, "Calling Me Home," which likewise boasts Appalachian tunes.

You can hear songs from those two works along with her country hits when Mattea gives a concert Friday at the Garde Arts Center.

- KRISTINA DORSEY

Kathy Mattea, 8 p.m. Friday, Garde Arts Center, 325 State St., New London; $31-$48; (860) 444-7373, gardearts.org.

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