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TV REVIEWS : Oddities Abound in ‘Women of Country’

If you were looking for a contemporary artist to be the focus of a show called “Women of Country Music,” you’d probably start the list with Reba McEntire, Mary Chapin Carpenter and Wynonna Judd. The second tier might include Trisha Yearwood and Patty Loveless. Somewhere way down the list you might have Kathy Mattea--a long-term Nashville stalwart and a strong crusader for AIDS awareness, but hardly a performer who’s at “the heart” of women’s rise in country music.

But she’s the choice of “The South Bank Show: Women of Country Music” (airing tonight at 7 p.m. on Bravo), a show that should thrill the Kathy Mattea fan club with its display of everything from her baby pictures to her TV debut to her music videos to a songwriting session.

But it’s far from a satisfying study of the theme suggested by the show’s title. Its view of the country business and culture is too unsophisticated and behind the curve for anyone who’s aware that country music has sold a lot of records in recent years.

The program also regularly abandons its main topic to show seemingly any oddity its makers encountered, from a songwriting Nashville tour guide to the guy who sews the fancy suits to England’s country-music cultists.

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Significantly, it relies in part on performance footage from “The Women of Country,” a 1993 CBS special whose intelligence and heart make virtually any more such shows superfluous.


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