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Like a Country Song, Hope Beats Out Despair

May 18, 1995

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The women of country music brought down the tent Wednesday night at the White House. And if President Clinton’s mood followed the lyrics, it was an evening of triumph winning out over despair.

Grammy winner Kathy Mattea contributed ``Knee Deep in the River.″ Singer and guitarist Suzy Bogguss was more hopeful with ``This is the Beginning, This is Not the End.″ Vocalist and fiddler Alison Krauss was musically ambiguous with ``When You Say Nothing at All.″

But near the end of the hour-long concert in a gigantic white tent pitched on the South Lawn of the White House, Mattea offered the ultimate musical tea leaf for a politically beleaguered president who would wants to stretch his White House years to two full terms: ``Walking Away a Winner.″

The concert, one in an irregular series called ``In Performance at the White House,″ will be televised nationally over PBS stations on Sept. 27 under the title ``Women of Country Music.″

But the several hundred people who peered over the yellow roses and white peonies in the center of their round tables didn’t have to defer their whoops and shouts as each song ended.

Education Secretary Richard Riley had a special request and his wish was granted.

Mattea sang ``Seeds,″ a song whose lyrics Riley often uses to end his speeches with its references to schoolchildren.

``We’re all just seeds in God’s hand. We start the same, but where we land, it’s sometimes fertile soil and sometimes sand. We’re all just seeds in God’s hand.″

First lady Hillary Rodham Clinton introduced her Arkansas-native husband as ``a man who loved country before country was cool.″

And Clinton said that as a southerner and an American he was glad the sound of country music is ``spreading all over the planet.

``Where I was raised we didn’t know it was country; we thought it was the only music there was,″ he said.

Guitarist Chet Atkins served as master of ceremonies, telling the audience he hoped they appreciated the fact that he had been ``practicing my ad libs all day.″

And Suzy Bogguss, just a bit flustered to find Clinton was the nearest person in the audience, said: ``Gee, I might accidentally spit on you, or something. I hope I don’t do that.″

She didn’t have to worry, and as the performance ended, Clinton paid a final tribute to country music as an art form that reflects ``our day-to-day triumphs and our heartaches, our love and our hope.″

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